With five wins on the trot and their best players firing on all cylinders, AS Roma are once again a team to reckon with and have put their 2020 struggles well and truly behind them. Fueled by scoring binges from Andressa Alves, Manuela Giugliano, Paloma Lázaro, and Annamaria Serturini, Roma have outscored their opponents 20-2 since the middle of January. (The defense, with the newly acquired Elena Linari, has been equally spectacular).
And a big chunk of that binge was the club's 4-0 victory over Florentia in the first leg of the Coppa Italia quarterfinals—and not just four goals but four precious away goals, which should put Roma on easy street as they look to advance to the semifinals for the second straight season.
Roma vs. Florentia: February 14th. 14:30 CET/8:30 EST. Stadio Tre Fontane, Roma.
But, before we delve into Sunday's match, let's take a look back at the first leg.
January 31st: Florentia 0, Roma 4
Roma had a bit of trouble with Florentia in their earlier Serie A match from mid-December—watching their one-nil lead disappear in the 75th minute thanks to Melania Martinovic—so there was actually cause for concern in this quarterfinal fixture. But Roma put those worries to bed rather quickly, rushing out to an early lead after Paloma Lázaro found the back of the net in only the fifth minute, one of two goals she scored that afternoon. Andressa and Annamaria Serturini would tack on goals of their own, giving Roma a cushy four-nil lead heading into the reverse fixture Sunday at the Tre Fontane.
Play to Win but Protect the Lead
With a four-goal cushion heading into this match, it would take an epic collapse for the Giallorosse not to waltz into the semifinals. Florentia would need, at minimum, their own 4-0 win just to force extra time and a five-nil victory to advance without resorting to extra time and potentially penalties. Crazier things have happened in football, but don't bet the farm on Florentia tomorrow.
Any way you slice it, Roma has a pretty clear path to the semifinals where they'd face Juventus. However, the flip side to this 4-0 advantage is that Florentia has absolutely nothing to lose tomorrow. A point Bavagnoli mentions in the clip above:
We must expect an opponent who will try to come here to Rome to play for it, despite the loss of the first leg. In football we could tell many stories that were taken for granted, we will find a team that will try. We do not want to miss the opportunity to bring home the result and the passage of the round
While it’s wise to proceed with an abundance of caution, if Bavagnoli blows this lead, she better avoid those same cameras tomorrow. So how, then, will Bavagnoli proceed? Will she run out her starters, add another goal to their tally and then empty the bench? Will she use this four-goal lead as an opportunity to experiment with a younger lineup or maybe even new tactics? Or will she take a more measured approach, mixing and matching veterans with the U-21 crowd?
One thing is for certain, though. With the likes of AC Milan and Juventus still alive in the competition, and a crucial domestic fixture against Empoli set for the end of February, Bavagnoli may not want to mess with success. Her team is rolling at the moment so if she experiments too much, she risks messing with the delicate chemistry the club has established over the past six weeks.
Thanks to their sluggish start to the season, Roma's hopes for Champions League qualification next season are likely dashed (the deficit behind second-place Milan is simply too great), but if they can keep this momentum going they have a solid chance to finish third in the league.
As far as the Coppa Italia is concerned, barring a Florentia miracle, Roma is set to face Juventus in the semifinals. While staring down the Old Lady is always daunting, Juventus needed nearly all 120 minutes of regular and extra time to defeat Roma, tiptoeing past the Giallorosse in last month's rescheduled 2020 Supercoppa semifinals thanks to a Cristiana Girelli match-winner in the 116th minute, so Roma should feel emboldened despite the prospect of facing the top team in the league.
We'll post the lineups once they become available, and if the first leg was any indication, you don't want to miss a single minute—the action may start early.