It’s not that often that you see a football season with such finely demarcated lines, but for AS Roma, there were two clearly defined phases to the 2020-2021 season: a slow crawl to begin the season, punctuated by mixed results and so, so many missed chances, before a marked turnaround in 2021. After steady progress through their first two seasons in existence, Roma had proven themselves to be one of the top three or four sides in the league, so expectations last fall were sky-high, but Roma came crashing back to the earth to start the season, winning only four of their first 12 matches.
However, once the calendar turned to 2021, Roma's fortunes changed in kind. The poor finishing that plagued the season's first few months soon gave way to some epic performances, including a 7-0 blanking of Roma CF in the Coppa Italia, a 6-1 thrashing of Florentia on Valentine's day, and the club's first-ever victory over Juventus in mid-March.
Napoli vs. Roma: May 22nd. 12:30 CET/6:30 EDT. Stadio Caduti di Brema, Napoli.
We'll always be left to wonder how things may have unfolded differently had Roma found their shooting boots at any point in 2020, but thanks to their New Year's turnaround, the Giallorosse booked a place in the Coppa Italia finale against AC Milan, set for May 30th at the Mapei Stadium.
With no wins in their past three matches, Roma's form has taken a slight dip since qualifying for the final but when you consider the context, the results aren't that troubling. Betty Bavagnoli's crew played two taught draws against Milan (their first-ever non-defeat to the Rossonere) and Florentia in successive weeks before falling to Juventus 1-0 last weekend.
And honestly, playing three incredibly tight matches against three of the league’s best sides is probably better prep for the Coppa Italia Finale than a string of blowouts against bottom dwellers. We'll find out in about nine days whether or not Roma's 0-0 draw of Milan was a promising sign or not, but for now, Roma has one final Serie A match to take care of—the second-ever rendition of the Derby del Sole in Serie A Femminile.
January 17th: Roma 3, Napoli 2
Roma unexpectedly fell behind the newly promoted Napoli in their first-ever meeting, conceding a setpiece goal in only the 14th minute. Annamaria Serturini would level the match eight minutes later with a well-placed shot at the far right post before Andressa Alves, who provided the assist on Serturini's goal, gave Roma the lead with a 35th-minute penalty.
Napoli would claw their way back into the match with a penalty of their own in the 56th minute but club captain and resident Roman Elisa Bartoli would have the last laugh, heading home the eventual match-winner in the 64th minute. For Roma, this was the second of seven straight victories between mid-January and the end of February—the real turning point in their season.
Napoli are fighting for their Serie A lives as we head into this final match, so let's take a look at a few of the storylines facing Roma in this Round 22 fixture.
Keep An Eye On
Napoli's Fight for Survival
As one of the growing number of clubs with a foothold in Serie A and Serie A Femminile, Napoli's promotion to the top flight this season was a cause for celebration. With Napoli joining the likes of Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina, Roma, and Inter Milan in Serie A Femminile, the traditional rivalries that make Italian football so exciting and so vibrant were finally starting to take root in women's football.
However, with only 13 points from 21 matches, Napoli is in danger of dropping straight back to Serie B. As we head into Saturday's season finale, Napoli are one point clear of 11th place San Marino, who are set to face Fiorentina at home during the same 12:30 PM local time slot.
This match may be just another tune-up for Roma before they face Milan in the cup final next week, but for Napoli, it's a matter of Serie A life and death, so don't expect them to hold anything back.
Who Will Bavagnoli Play?
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, with Roma's Serie A fate already settled, the only real point of intrigue over the past few weeks has been Bavagnoli's lineup selections. Over the past three weeks, we've spoken at length about Bavagnoli's options: would she opt for continuity to keep her players in form for the final against Milan or would she use the season's final weeks to rest some of her key players?
Almost without fail, Bavagnoli has kept her starting eleven intact over the past few weeks, rolling out Elisa Bartoli, Annamaria Serturini, Manuela Giugliano, and Elena Linari for nearly every available minute over the past three matches. She did, however, make one notable change in Roma's past two matches: swapping out keeper Camelia Ceasar for Rachele Baldi.
Bavagnoli didn't offer much explanation for this curious change, but it raised a few eyebrows at CdT headquarters because she made this same swap early in the season to...underwhelming results.
Apart from the unexpected change in between the sticks, Bavagnoli has made all the right calls down the stretch, preserving the form and continuity of her best players by not limiting their playing time. This weekend, however, she may have extra incentive to pull players like Giugliano, Allyson Swaby, and Elisa Bartoli after an hour or so. The last thing Roma needs right now is a minor injury ahead of next week's clash with Milan.
How to Watch: Roma TV+ (outside of Italy), Sky Sport and TIM Vision (in Italy)