We're still two weeks away from Roma's highly anticipated Coppa Italia finale against AC Milan, who officially wrapped up Italy's second and final Champions League spot for next season after defeating Sassuolo on Saturday. In their two matches since booking their place in the cup final, Roma has gutted out two draws, a scoreless clash against Milan on May 1st and a somewhat disappointing 1-1 draw last weekend against Florentia.
While the Giallorosse finish their Serie A season next weekend against 10th place Napoli, their penultimate league match on Sunday features a decidedly tougher opponent: Juventus, the newly minted champions of Serie A Femminile. Sporting a perfect 20-0 record, Juventus cruised to this year's Scudetto while boasting an absurd +59 goal differential through 20 matches and may be out for some small measure of revenge against Roma, who ousted Juve from the Coppa Italia in the semifinals last month.
Roma vs. Juventus: May 16th. 12:30 CET/6:30 EDT. Stadio Tre Fontane, Roma.
By besting Juve 2-1 in the first leg in mid-March, Roma scored their first-ever victory against Juventus, ending a three-year run of futility against the Old Lady. And while they dropped the second leg in a somewhat controversial 3-2 defeat—Juve's third goal came off a corner at the death; one that probably shouldn't have even been awarded—we feel safe in saying that the margins between these two clubs are as close as they've ever been since Roma entered Serie A in 2018.
The club continues their strange video archiving policy by not posting highlights of the prior league fixture nor the second leg of the coppa semifinal on the club YouTube page, so we'll dispense with our usual look back at the last fixture and focus instead on the major plot points heading into this Round 21 fixture.
Keep An Eye On
The New Attacking Quartet
With Brazilian playmaker Andressa on the shelf for the past few weeks, Betty Bavagnoli had to get a bit creative with her tactics, which, as of late, has featured a 4-2-3-1 module. One of the beauties of this formation is that it enables a manager to deploy four to five of their best attacking players simultaneously.
On paper, Andressa seems like the ideal trequartista in this setup—after all, passing and playmaking are her strong suits—but credit Bavagnoli's creativity here. In Andressa's absence, Bavagnoli has turned to Lindsey Thomas to sit in the hole behind the forwards. While the French striker doesn't have a fraction of Andressa's passing ability, her work rate, speed, and deceptive agility have enabled her to cause some chaos behind the defense in recent weeks.
But the real benefit of this formation rests slightly ahead of Thomas, where Bavagnoli can now deploy Annamaria Serturini, Paloma Lázaro, and Agnese Bonfantini at the same time, free from the creative burden of other formations. In a partnership somewhat reminiscent of the Edin Dzeko-Mohamed Salah-Stephan El Shaarawy troika that Luciano Spalletti used to such great effect several years ago, Lázaro's stature, strength, and willingness to get physical enables Serturini and Bonfantini to have that extra little bit of space out wide, giving them more time to run at defenders and/or space to cut in, with the added bonus of having Lázaro as a counterweight in the middle.
Throw in the tidy work done by Vanessa Bernauer in midfield and the world-class passing of Manuela Giugliano and this is arguably Roma's best tactical setup—with the proviso that Andressa in place of Thomas would really push it over the top.
With only two matches remaining before the cup final, Bavagnoli better hope she can find a way to integrate Andressa back into the fold, but this current quartet is Bavagnoli's best bet at laying claim to the Coppa Italia title.
How About Some Goals?
I guess this throws some shade at the preceding paragraph, but Roma has been limited to one goal or less in three of their past four matches; a worrying trend as the club prepares to face the now four-time reigning champions, Juventus, not to mention the looming finale against Milan on the 30th.
While this is certainly a troublesome development—doubly so when you consider the club's finishing woes in 2020—what better time to break that hex than against a club like Juve, who has conceded only 10 goals the entire season?
I'd expect Bavagnoli to treat next week's league finale against Napoli with kid gloves, carefully doling out minutes to her top players, so Sunday's fixture against Juventus may be the last true tune-up ahead of the Coppa Italia finale.
With five clean sheets in eight appearances, Roma's defense has been transformed since they signed Elena Linari, while the midfield is humming thanks to Giugliano and Bernauer (who also received a big boost from Giada Greggi's return last week), which really just leaves the goal scorers as the only squeaky wheel as we wait for May 30th.
Roma fired four goals past Juventus over their Coppa Italia semifinal series, and hanging another crooked number on the Old Lady Sunday afternoon would be the perfect performance to set them straight ahead of the finale on May 30th at the Mapei Stadium.
How to Watch: Roma TV+ for those of us outside of Italy, and Sky Sport or TIM Vision in Italy.