Sitting atop the Serie A Femminile table and with an unblemished record in the Champions League, the women of Rome are riding high as October gives way to November. With new signings like Valentina Giacinti, Moeka Minami, and Carina Wenninger living up to and sometimes exceeding the hype, Roma is arguably the deepest and most dangerous team in the league.
While they've had a few close calls as of late, including a one-nil nailbiter over Como last weekend, the Giallorosse are getting results when it matters most. Through seven rounds of league play, Alessandro Spugna's side is level with Fiorentina on 18 points but sits on top of the table thanks to their superior goal differential and has only one blemish on their record thus far, a 1-0 defeat to Juventus.
With the top four clubs in the league squaring off against one another this weekend (Roma vs. Inter and Fiorentina vs. Juve), the Giallorosse can carve out a bit of space in the standings with a victory over Inter and some help from Juve.
A win on Saturday, coupled with Juve taking down Fiorentina on Sunday, could give Roma a three-point cushion at the top of the table ahead of next weekend's Supercoppa match against The Old Lady
However, rather than continuing to put the cart before the horse, let's look at the possible keys to victory over Inter Milan.
Keep An Eye On
With his club in three competitions for the first time, Spugna's personnel management skills have been tested like never before. In the past week and a half alone, Roma hosted Slavia Prague in the Champions League opener before welcoming Como to the capital three days later before trekking to Austria on Wednesday to face St Pölten in CL's second matchday.
While Roma did well to win all three of those matches, many of Roma's key players logged significant minutes during this stretch, including midfield maestro Manuela Giugliano, Brazilian playmaker Andressa Alves and star defender Elena Linari.
Roma will get a bit of a reprieve after today's match, with a whole week's rest before facing Juventus next Saturday. Still, for the first time in club history, the Giallorosse are contending with the pressures, stress, and fatigue of balancing European ambitions with domestic objectives.
It would be one thing if Roma were facing a bottom-of-the-table side, but with Inter hot on their heels, Spugna doesn't even have the luxury of resting his best players today, so look for Giugliano, Linari, Andressa, and more to start today's match.
As we discussed earlier in the season, as deep and as well-rounded as Roma's roster may be, the defense, particularly out wide, is a bit thin, where only Elisa Bartoli and Elin Landström are the only two actual full-backs left standing.
However, despite that tiny bit of uncertainty, Roma's defense has been beyond reproach this season. Through the first seven rounds of play, Linari and company conceded only two goals: one to Juventus and one to Fiorentina. Having already faced Juve, the Viola, and Milan, it's not as if Roma has been plowing through the soft part of their schedule either—they've faced some serious muscle.
To accommodate this lack of depth, made worse by the early season injuries to Linari and Lucia Di Guglielmo, the latter of whom remains out with a thigh injury, Spugna has tried various defensive modalities, including a highly successful three-woman backline featuring Linari, Wenninger, and Minami, with everyone from Bartoli, Emilie Haavi and Annamaria Serturini serving as wing-backs.
Over the long run, this lack of depth is a concern, but credit the coaching staff for keeping the backline fresh and finding innovative solutions to unexpected problems.
Speaking of problems, Inter has a big one in store for the Giallorosse.
Can Anyone Stop Elisa Poli?
With seven goals in seven matches—matching Juve's Cristiana Girelli for the early lead—Poli, a 22-year-old striker, has been one of the season's biggest surprises to date. After failing to find the back of the net in 17 appearances last season (though, to be fair, that only accounted for 513 minutes), Poli has burst through in a major way, grabbing goals in bunches, scoring a hattrick against Pomigliano in late September before bagging braces against Como and Milan over the past month.
Admittedly, neither of those clubs is on Roma's level, but in what is sure to be a tightly contested affair, Poli could spoil the part for the Giallorosse, so whether it's Linari, Minami, Wenninger, or even Beata Kollmats, Roma would be wise to keep an eye on her at all times.