After returning from their own international break late last month, the women of Roma picked up right where they left off: on a steady climb to the best season in club history. While the Giallorosse's overall win streak was halted following a 2-1 defeat to Milan in the Supercoppa Italia, Alessandro Spugna and Roma didn't let that momentary setback distract them as they reeled off three straight wins since then, including a 1-0 victory over Napoli last weekend—their SEVENTH straight Serie A victory.
Thanks to that torrid run, Roma find themselves a mere six points behind undefeated Juventus, who dropped their first points of the season against Fiorentina last weekend in a 2-2 draw, potentially opening the door for the Giallorosse to make life miserable for the Old Lady down the stretch.
But, let's not get ahead of ourselves. There's still the matter at hand: Roma's round 14 fixture against seventh place Pomigliano; a club they've already defeated by a 5-2 aggregate margin in two prior fixtures in all competitions.
Last Match (Coppa Italia)
December 18, 2021: Pomigliano 1, Roma 3
After squeezing past Pomigliano in their first league encounter last fall—a two-one victory on the road—Roma left little to chance in December's cup clash. Starting with Claudia Ciccotti's clever ping-it-off-the-post goal early in the first half, Roma seemed poised to pummel Pomigliano, overwhelming their hosts with attacking wave after attacking wave, nearly pushing their advantage to three-nil before the stroke of halftime.
But with the misses piling up and Pomigliano pulling one back thanks to a well-orchestrated free-kick—not to mention multiple near misses of their own—Roma's would-be rout nearly became an unthinkable upset.
However, thanks to a bit of setpiece sorcery of their own—a sensational flicked header from Vanessa Bernauer, who managed to guide the ball into the top right-hand corner from an incredibly acute angle—Roma once again gained the advantage before Benedetta Glionna and Valeria Pirone combined to sew up the win before the final whistle sounded.
It was a wild match that could have easily finished with an equally wild 5-4 scoreline, but Roma showed enough poise to weather the storm, slowly but surely proving they were the superior side. But will any of that matter on Saturday?
Before we answer that question, we have to do a bit of housekeeping.
Comings and Goings
Weeks after losing star defender Allyson Swaby to Angel City FC, an NWSL expansion team set to begin play later this year, Roma bid farewell to Thaisa Moreno. The Brazilian midfielder, who only just signed with Roma this past summer, left the club today by mutual consent, stripping Roma of solid veteran presence in midfield. In her absence, look for Vanessa Bernauer, Giada Greggi, and Claudia Ciccotti to fill the void.
But it wasn't all bad news on the transfer front. Earlier this week, the club announced the signing of forward Sophie Roman Haug. A 22-year-old forward, Haug arrives in the capital after a six-year stint with LSK Kvinner; the same club that brought us super-utility woman Emilie Haavi last month.
Haug, a five-time Norwegian champ and four-time cup winner, is one of Norway's most heralded attacking prospects, having bagged 61 goals in 133 appearances for Kvinner. Billed as a classic number nine, Haug signed a two-year deal with the club and will wear the number 22 shirt made famous by former CdT favorite Agnese Bonfantini.
As we mentioned at the outset, Roma are only six points adrift of league-leading Juventus, who have an absolute gimme against last-place Hellas Verona and their -37 goal differential. Factor in Juve's +30 differential and we're looking at a blowout of epic proportions, so don't expect any help there.
However, sitting just below Roma (and technically level on points) are the Neroverde of Sassuolo, who have a slightly more difficult fixture against sixth-place Sampdoria, winners of two of their past three matches. So, if you must root for any non-Roma side this weekend, breakout your beautiful blue Samp kits on Saturday.
Okay, onto the match...
Keep An Eye On
Many Happy Returns
While club captain Elisa Bartoli remains on the shelf, Spugna's side will get a tremendous boost tomorrow thanks to the returns of star midfielder Manuela Giugliano and slippery striker Valeria Pirone. While the latter has dealt with her fair share of knocks this season, Pirone's four league goals are still good for a share of the club lead and she should be primed to reclaim her spot in the starting lineup after watching Paloma Lázaro bag a brace in last week's 3-0 cup win over Como.
Giugliano's return requires no explanation: she's the only number 10 in town for a reason.
Roma's Scandinavian Sect
With Haug joining the crew, the Giallorosse now boasts five Scandinavians: Goalkeeper Emma Lind (Sweden), defender Beata Kollmats (Sweden), utility woman Emilie Haavi (Norway), midfielder Mina Bergersen (Norway), and now striker Sophie Roman Haug (Norway).
Whether it's coincidental or not, Roma's Head of Women's Football Betty Bavagnoli seems to have found a second home in Scandinavia. However, this is more than a flight of fancy or some strange geographic predilection. In Lind, who was ostensibly signed to replace Rachele Baldi as Camelia Ceasar's deputy, Bavagnoli found a tall and talented keeper to control the area, while Haavi is proving herself to be incredibly malleable, lining up in defense and attack while bagging a goal and chipping in an assist in her first two appearances.
Kollmats, Bergersen, and Haug will have their time to shine, but you have to be impressed with how quickly Haavi and Lind have hit the ground running. Through her first year as Head of Women's football, Bavagnoi has eschewed the obvious big-name signings (Daniela Sabatino, Valentina Giacinti, and Alia Guagni, to name a few) in favor of these young but experienced Scandinavians—and, so far, it's working like a charm.
In time, Haug may prove to be the best of the bunch, but Haavi's versatility and burst give Spugna infinite lineup options while Lind has already stolen playing time from Ceasar. It's safe to say that Roma are in good hands thanks to Bavagnoli's eye for talent.
Look for Spugna to stick with the 3-5-2 that's seemingly taken the entire capital by storm. Whether it's Lind or Ceasar in goal, the back three of Lucia Di Guglielmo, Elena Linari, and Tecla Pettenuzzo should have no problem containing the Pomigliano attack. In midfield, Haavi and Annamaria Serturini should flank Vanessa Bernauer, while Giugliano, Andressa, Pirone, and Glionna will likely occupy the forward ranks.