With seven wins in all competitions to close out 2021, Alessandro Spugna's Roma side were among the hottest teams in Serie A Femminile. Thanks to impressive wins over Sassuolo, Fiorentina, blowouts against Hellas Verona and Tavagnacco, and even a dramatic 3-2 in the first-ever Derby della Capitale against Lazio, the Giallorosse were humming like a fine-tuned machine. Really, the only thing keeping Roma from being the hottest team in the league was that pesky Old Lady in Turin.
However, thanks to a somewhat surprising draw against Fiorentina earlier this weekend, Juve's perfect start to the season is no more, meaning Roma are now the most in-form team in the league. Sure, their overall win streak ground to a halt against AC Milan in the Supercoppa earlier this month, but thanks to Elena Linari's 90th-minute penalty last weekend against Empoli, Roma's domestic win streak now stands at six—a club record.
Before we worry about seventh heaven, let's take a look back at the reverse fixture.
September 4, 2021: Roma 4, Napoli 1
In a portent of things to come for each club—and only a week after the club's strange 3-0 win over Empoli in which the Giallorosse didn't score a single goal—Roma erased all doubts about their attacking prowess by pumping four past a hapless Napoli side. As impressive as the final score may have been, the sheer quality of Roma's strikes (particularly the first three) gave us the first glimpse of what Spugna's side was truly capable of this season.
Starting with Andressa's parallel to the goal line left-footed chip in the 18th minute, Roma quickly compounded Napoli's misery when Manuela Giugliano played Annamaria Serturini into space with a defense-splitting pass in the 20th minute, which Serturini calmly curled over the outstretched keeper. Giugliano would have her moment in the sun the very next minute, lashing a left-footed volley into the back of the net, pushing Roma's lead to 3-0 after only 21 minutes.
Napoli would pull back a consolation goal later in the half, which Elisa Bartoli quickly erased with a great near-post run to tap in Roma's fourth goal, giving the Giallorosse their first bona fide victory of the season.
Speaking of victories...with a win tomorrow over relegation battling Napoli, Spugna's side can cruise to their seventh straight league, potentially narrowing the gap behind league-leading Juventus to a manageable six points in the process.
Thanks to Sassuolo's 4-0 drubbing of Verona on Saturday, this seemingly easily tilt against Napoli suddenly becomes a must-win match; at least if the Giallorosse want to retain their grasp on second place, which is currently and temporarily occupied by Sassuolo.
So that's the prologue, now let's take a look at a couple of possible points of intrigue in Sunday's match against 10th place Napoli.
Keep An Eye On
The First Half
With only eight goals forced against 19 conceded, Napoli has more issues than they likely care to remember, but as one of Roma's biggest rivals, we won't shy away from piling on the Partenopei's woes. Eight goals scored in a dozen matches is a pitiful haul but their inability to score looks even worse when you consider the timing of those strikes.
With only one goal occurring in the first 30 minutes of their 12 league matches, the Partenopei give a new meaning to procrastination, but it gets worse: 79% of Napoli's conceded goals have come in the first half alone. For their part, 54% of Roma's league goals have come in the first half—not including the three own goals they forced against Empoli in round one—while only 27% of their goals allowed have occurred in the first half.
Put simply: Napoli can't score in the first half but concede a ton, where Roma scores a ton early while barely feeling a breeze in the defensive third in the first 45 minutes.
Add all that up, and this match could be decided before the players break a sweat.
Will Three at The Back Equal Three Points?
Just like their colleagues on the men's side of the aisle, the women of Roma have been no stranger to injuries and last-minute COVID absences. This weekend, Spugna and the Giallorosse will be down club captain Elisa Bartoli, Brazilian midfielder Thaisa Moreno and new signee Beata Kollmats, each of whom will miss this match through injury or illness.
But it's not all bad news on the personnel front. After missing last weekend's thriller against Empoli, goalkeeper Camelia Ceasar is back in the fold and should start between the sticks, while the club's chances tomorrow received a shot in the arm with the news that midfielder Andressa and forwards Benedetta Glionna and Valeria Pirone are all fit and ready to play.
While that's all well and good, with Kollmats injured and now former Roma center-back Allyson Swaby plying her trade in Los Angeles, Spugna may still be forced to deviate from his usual 4-2-3-1, shifting instead to a 3-5-2. With Ceasar back in goal and Lucia Di Guglielmo, Elena Linari, and Tecla Pettenuzzo sweeping up in front of her, Roma has more than enough resolution to quell the Partenopei's already pusillanimous attack.
In the attacking phases of the formation, look for Emilie Haavi and Annamaria Serturini to reprise their roles as makeshift wingbacks while Andressa should slot right back into the midfield next to Manuela Giugliano in support of the forward tandem of Pirone and Glionna, while Vanessa Bernauer will occupy her normal spot shielding the backline.
While you never want to assume anything, with Roma as fit and healthy as they've been in weeks, and with the odds already stacked against Napoli, the Giallorosse stand a good chance at extending their club-record winning streak.
It won't be easy, of course, but as the reverse fixture proved, Roma are deeper, sharper, faster, and just plain better than Napoli.
Get ‘er done, Giallorosse.