Thanks to the ever-changing face of Serie A Femminile—with respect to the standard cycles of promotion and relegation and the rather unique set of circumstances that sees some clubs reform under new auspices seemingly every year—Roma fans have witnessed a wide variety of opponents face our beloved Giallorosse. From Pink Bari to Orobica to Florentia to Tavagnacco to San Marino, who are from an entirely different country, the league has seen more than its fair share of turnover, giving Roma fans plenty of new faces, kits, and crests to jeer.
And that trend continues tomorrow when Roma gets their first look at the newly-reformed Sampdoria, who came into being after essentially acquiring/purchasing/taking the place of Florentia San Gimignano. Through the first nine matches under their new moniker, Sampdoria sits a respectable sixth out of 12 clubs, sporting a perfectly balanced goal differential: 11 scored, 11 conceded. Despite that stability, Sampdoria enter this match in a bit of free-fall, dropping points in three-straight matches (L-D-D) after winning three-straight between late September and early October.
For their part, Roma has reeled off four consecutive wins in all competitions, including a 5-0 walloping over Tavagnacco in the Coppa Italia two weeks ago. Sampdoria won't present an insurmountable challenge for Roma, but they certainly aren't pushovers, so let's take a quick look at a few of the major storylines in the Giallorosse's round 10 fixture.
Keep An Eye On
Spugna's Squad Rotation Crisis
With injury, illness, and suspensions ravaging José Mourinho's squad, it was only a matter of time before Giallorosse manager Alessandro Spugna faced a similar crisis. And, wouldn’t you know it, that’s precisely the pickle in which Roma’s new manager finds himself this weekend.
The recent international break was not kind to Roma as Angelica Soffia, Valeria Pirone, and Benedetta Glionna each returned from national team duty testing positive for COVID-19, while Elisa Bartoli, Lucia Di Guglielmo, and Giada Greggi are each being rested after a busier break than anticipated. Add all that together, and tomorrow's match will test the limits of Spugna's imagination.
With three full-backs missing from the equation (Bartoli, Soffia, Di Guglielmo), we may finally see the three-woman backline for which this squad seems tailor-made. With a back three of Elena Linari, Allyson Swaby, and Tecla Pettenuzzo, Roma should be able to transition from defense to attack without batting an eye, but Spugna will have to get a bit creative with the middle section of this fictional 3-4-2-1 formation.
Directly in front of the defense, Spugna could field the rock-steady combo of Thaisa Morena and Vanessa Bernauer, with Manuela Giugliano, Andressa, and Paloma Lázaro serving as the forward attacking trident. But that middle section—the wider two of the 4 in the 3-4-2-1—could see Annamaria Serturini and late-summer signee Joyce Borini each taking up an El Shaarawy role as speedy Roma winger turned attacking wing-back.
It's an exciting idea for no other reason than Linari, Swaby, and Pettenuzzo seem ideally suited to play alongside one another. And if this formation succeeds, it opens up a host of possibilities for Spugna once his squad is at full strength.
Paloma Lázaro's Time to Shine
As we just mentioned, Roma’s depth was dealt a swift and temporary blow up top, losing Glionna and Pirone to positive COVID tests, though they are reportedly asymptomatic and isolating at home. And their temporary absences could open up the door for a Lázaro breakthrough.
While she seemed to misplace her shooting boots from time to time last season, Lázaro still scored nine goals in roughly 1,800 minutes last season (all competitions) and offers a more commanding physical presence in the area than the shorter Pirone. But, with the club bringing in the more accomplished Italian international this summer, Lázaro had no choice but to watch from the bench. However, rather than letting that dampen her spirits, Lázaro has been remarkably effective in limited action, scoring two goals in 270 league minutes, good for 0.65 goals per 90, higher than last season's scoring rate.
Pirone's job is safe, but a strong performance against Sampdoria could provide manager Alessandro Spugna with more tactical wrinkles going forward.
Can Roma Tame Tarenzi and Rincón?
Despite sitting in sixth place and boasting a neutral goal differential, Sampdoria's attack has struggled mightily this season, as their 11 goals are the fourth-worst mark in Serie A through nine and a half rounds of play. However, when Samp does find the back of the net, you can rest assured that either Tarenzi or Rincón played a part.
With three goals in eight appearances, Tarenzi sets the Sampdoria pace. What's more, she scored all three of those goals and home and has displayed a penchant for poaching Roma, scoring three career goals against the Giallorosse over the past three seasons. At 33-years-old and with more than 100 Serie A goals to her credit, Tarenzi is more than capable of ruining Roma's afternoon.
And so is Yoreli Rincón. The 28-year-old Colombian midfielder has been a revelation during her first season with Sampdoria. After notching three assists in 16 appearances last year for Inter Milan, Rincón has taken her game to an entirely new level this year. Through her first nine appearances, Rincón has been one of the most dynamic players in the league, scoring two goals to go along with a league-leading six assists, and those eight goal contributions are the best mark in the league.
Sampdoria may not score much, but these two proven commodities could make life miserable for Roma tomorrow, particularly with so many defenders on the bench.
A win over Samp on Sunday would put Roma on 22 points, potentially two points within second place, so this is a critical fixture in every shape and form.