When we last saw Elisa Bartoli and the Giallorosse in early April, they were putting the finishing touches on a 7-1 shellacking of last-place Hellas Verona, extending their unbeaten Serie A run to an astounding 13 matches. Led by recent addition Milica Mijatović, who scored a brace in only her fourth appearance for the club, Roma made quick work of the Mastiffs, rushing out to a 4-0 lead before the hour mark.
Admittedly, Hellas Verona wasn't much of a threat, but Alessandro Spugna's crew wasted little time showing their guests the door. Despite the lopsided scoreline, Roma wasn't able to make any hay on the table, as Juventus (five points ahead) handled their business against Sampdoria in a 3-1 win. And with third-place AC Milan blanking Empoli 3-0 on the road, the top of the Serie A Femminile table remained unchanged. With three matches remaining, Roma has a slim shot at chasing down Juventus for the Scudetto, but the real (and more attainable) prize, the Champions League, remains alive and well.
While Roma can technically sew up Italy's second and final CL spot Saturday with a win and a Milan loss, the Rossonere aren't likely to lose at home to seventh place Pomigliano, so we may have to forestall our celebrations for a week. However, before we go popping any bottles, let's take a quick look back at Roma's last fixture against Fiorentina.
November 13, 2021: Roma 1, Fiorentina 0
While Fiorentina and Roma aren't exactly chief rivals, for most of the Giallorosse's four years in the league, the Viola have been a thorn in Roma's side, playing the capital club in a series of nail biters. In nine previous encounters, Roma has struggled to stay a step ahead of their purple-clad adversaries, playing Fiorentina to a 3-4-2 (W-D-L) record while sporting a +1 goal differential.
And last time out was no exception to that rule. After being frustrated by the Viola defense, Roma turned to their all-time leading scorer for assistance, and as she's done so often over the past four years, Annamaria Serturini stepped up to the plate, netting a match-winner in the 52nd minute.
Roma and Fiorentina have been in lockstep for most of the past four years, but they've been on divergent paths this season. Thanks in large part to their 13-match unbeaten streak, Roma has climbed all the way into second place while their Firenze counterparts have stumbled down the table and are currently only three points clear of the drop zone.
With so much at stake for both sides, we should expect your typical Roma-Fiorentina grudge match, so let's take a quick look at a few of the key storylines in Saturday's fixture.
Keep An Eye On
Fiorentina's Three-Headed Monster
Despite their lowly spot on the table, Fiorentina aren't lacking in firepower, particularly up top where they sport three of the league's top ten scorers: Daniela Sabatino (11 goals, tied for 1st), Karin Lundin (eight goals, tied for third), and Valentina Giacinti (eight goals, tied for third), though seven of those came with Milan. While they seldom share the pitch together, any club that can boast three bonafide scorers like that commands immediate respect.
Fortunately for us, Roma's defense is among the best in the league, ranking third in goals conceded and second in goal differential. As intimidating as that trio may be, have you met Elena Linari?
It won't be easy, but Linari has transformed Roma's defense (and the entire club, if we're being honest) since she arrived last season and should have no trouble tussling with her Azzurre teammates.
Annamaria Serturini's Viola Vendetta
Okay, it’s not a vendetta in the strictest sense of the word, but Serturini has victimized the Viola more than any other opponent over the past three seasons. With four goals since the start of the 2019-2020 season, Serturini has delighted in downing the Viola. In fact, Serturini has played a part in four of Roma's five most recent goals against Fiorentina, including three goals and one assist. She hasn't repeated the highs of her 11 goal campaign in 2018-2019, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a player in this league with a faster first step and a quicker release than Serturini, and if this match comes down to one possession, give it to Annamaria and enjoy the show!
But if she's off the mark, look for the Spaniard to pick up the slack...
Can Lázaro Keep it Rolling?
We've been hard on Paloma Lázaro over the past year or so. Undeniably talented, Lázaro arrived from Fiorentina prior to last season, and while she doubled her Viola output immediately after signing with Roma (four goals vs eight), she's racked up the misses in near equal measure. In a lot of ways, her Giallorosse career mirrored Edin Dzeko's on the men's side of the aisle. Both players scored a respectable amount of goals, but one couldn’t help but wonder how many more they could have scored if they were a tad more clinical.
Despite her intermittent lack of efficiency up top, Lázaro is perhaps the most classical striker in the club's brief history. Blessed with size, technique, and strength, Lázaro can post up in the area, giving Spugna's attack a reference point and a springboard for any number of attacking combinations at the edge of the 18. And while she's not the swiftest striker in the league, she has no issue keeping up with Roma's pacier playmakers like Andressa, Manuela Giugliano, and Emilie Haavi.
Put simply, she's a threat nearly anywhere on the pitch. And this season, Roma's 28-year-old Spanish striker has taken her game to a new level, bagging eight goals in 18 appearances.
Adding another striker tomorrow will set a new career-high for Lázaro, who is currently tied for third in the league alongside Lundin, Giacinti, and Sassuolo's Sofia Cantore. As impressive as Fiorentina's three-headed monster may be, Lázaro and Serturini should give the Viola nightmares of their own on Saturday.
It won't be easy (it never is against Fiorentina) but a win tomorrow should set the stage for Roma's first-ever Champions League berth.