With five straight league victories, including a 3-2 win over Lazio in the first-ever Derby della Capitale in Serie A Femminile last weekend, you'd be forgiven if you forgot that Roma were still in the thick of their Coppa Italia defense. After defeating AC Milan on penalties last spring to claim the first trophy in club history, Roma began their title defense with a resounding 5-0 thumping of Tavagnacco earlier this fall, who were also done-in by Pomigliano in a 3-0 defeat in late November.
And thanks to the group stage format of the Coppa Italia, Roma and Pomigliano will come face-to-face tomorrow afternoon in Campania to see which side will advance to the quarterfinals. Pomigliano, who gained promotion to Serie A Femminile this season, are no strangers to Roma, who squeaked past their southern neighbors in a 2-1 victory in September.
Il primo e unico precedente tra Roma e Pomigliano si è giocato in campionato in questa stagione. Abbiamo vinto con i gol di Pirone e Glionna.— AS Roma Femminile (@ASRomaFemminile) December 17, 2021
➡️ https://t.co/X1QMQA0Gmx#ASRomaFemminile pic.twitter.com/oay8QP3nJ0
New signees Valeria Pirone and Benedetta Glionna provided the scoring punch on the way to three points that afternoon, but it wasn't all good news as Roma dropped points in their next three matches following this victory; the lone dour note in Alessandro Spugna's first season in charge. Since then, Roma has turned things around dramatically, climbing all the way to second place on the table. For their part, Pomigliano have availed themselves quite well in their first taste of the top flight, sitting in eighth place, six points above the drop.
Despite the chasm separating them in the standings, Spugna isn't taking Pomigliano lightly:
"We have to beat them to get to the next round ... We have the ability, but it won't be easy."— AS Roma Women (@ASRomaWomen) December 17, 2021
️ After last weekend's derby victory, coach Alessandro Spugna turns his attentions to Saturday's Coppa Italia clash in Pomigliano...#ASRomaWomen #ASRoma pic.twitter.com/R3Z4igcF6a
While that's likely just generic coach-speak, in this win-or-go-home scenario, Roma can ill-afford to take anything for granted, so let's take a look at some of the key storylines in Saturday's Coppa Italia clash.
Keep An Eye On
Who Will Play?
Under normal circumstances, facing a club that’s conceded 20 goals in 11 league matches would precipitate massive squad turnover; we're talking U-21s, third-string keepers, the works. But with actual stakes at play, Spugna can't risk digging too deep into his bench. And with the return of full-backs Elisa Bartoli and Lucia Di Guglielmo, who each missed last week's derby (at least the chance to start, Bartoli did appear), Spugna will likely return to his tried and true 4-2-3-1.
With Bartoli and LDG back in the fold, and Allyson Swaby and Elena Linari erasing opposing attacks from existence, Roma's backline should be business as usual. In attack, Pirone, Glionna and Annamaria Serturini are likely drooling at the prospect of facing Pomigliano's porous defense.
But in midfield, well, that's a different story...
While the rest of his squad is fit and ready to roll, with Brazilian playmaker Andressa Alves still absent from the squad for personal reasons, Spugna suddenly finds himself in need of an advanced playmaker, someone to keep Pirone, Glionna and Serturini satiated.
Despite that headache, Spugna has several options at his disposal. While Manuela Giugliano has spent most of the season in the double pivot, given her pace, vision, and touch, she can easily operate in a more advanced role (and one could argue that's her proper position full stop). In this setup, Spugna could easily drop Thaisa Moreno and Vanessa Bernauer into the double pivot.
Alternatively, he could keep Giugliano and Bernauer in the more withdrawn role and use Giada Greggi as the de facto trequartista. Crazier still, he can use striker Paloma Lázaro in the playmaking roll, ostensibly giving Roma four forwards to terrorize the Pomigliano defense.
We've made it this far without even mentioning Claudia Ciccotti, who could conceivably play anywhere in midfield, or newcomers Joyce Borini and Emilie Haavi, both of whom are capable of playing multiple roles. No matter which way the wind blows, thanks to Betty Bavagnoli's masterful squad construction, Spugna has seemingly limitless options to temporarily replace his chief playmaker.
A win tomorrow would keep Roma's chances of repeating alive, but with the club set to go on break, this will be our last Giallorosse fix until early January, so let's hope they end 2021 on a high note!