After watching the men of Rome achieve a moral victory on the road against Juventus in their 1-1 draw in late August, Alessandro Spugna, Manuela Giugliano, Valentina Giacinti, and the rest of the Giallorosse will be eager to notch a similar (or better) result when they face Cristiana Girelli and Juve on the road this afternoon. However, there is one crucial difference between Roma's two senior teams as they entered their tilts with the Old Lady: The women of Rome begin this week three fixture in first place, two points ahead of the defending champions, who were held to a surprising draw by Inter Milan last weekend.
With Roma making quick work of AC Milan last Saturday, the Giallorosse stand alone atop the Serie A standings. And while the Giallorosse have still never defeated Juventus in league play, the recent results are trending upwards, with Roma scoring a 1-1 draw in Vinovo last March, the most recent meeting between the two clubs.
During his pre-match interview, Spugna was asked about Roma's continued troubles at Vinovo, or a taboo, as Roma TV's Fabiola Rieti described it.
️ “È una partita bella da vivere e da giocare contro la squadra che domina da cinque anni in Italia”— AS Roma Femminile (@ASRomaFemminile) September 15, 2022
Alessandro Spugna alla vigilia del match con la Juventus#ASRomaFemminile pic.twitter.com/aFHtTOO1Dz
On his club's struggles against the Old Lady, Spugna didn't delve into specifics, choosing instead to focus on the positives:
"That's right. There is also a taboo in Vinovo, but what matters is trying to turn in a top performance to keep our positive run. Of course, it's a great game to be involved in and to play in. They're a top side and the team to beat even though we go there with a two-point lead. They've dominated Italian football for the last five years, and I think they've strengthened this year, so it'll certainly be a great game.
In light of last weekend's fixtures (Roma finally defeating Milan in the league and Inter playing Juve in a thrilling 3-3 draw), Spugna was asked about the increasing quality of the league and its impact on the title race.
"The standard in the league gone up so much, but not just Milan, Inter, Juve and Roma, as there are many teams doing so well and plenty of good players have arrived. The standard of the league is on the up, and every game is tough and requires good preparation if you want to compete at the top level."
Ever the pragmatist, that Spugna. While he's right to remain deferential, the improving standard of play in Serie A Femminile can, in part, be attributed to Roma’s rise up the ranks. Once a safe haven for Romans and Italian journeywomen, the Giallorosse have become increasingly cosmopolitan every summer, signing talent from all over the globe while still recruiting and developing nearly a dozen Italian Nation Team regulars.
And today's match, the first in which Roma should be considered equals with Juve, is not only a showcase for the league itself, it could very well determine which team is standing on top of the table come May.
With that in mind, let's take a quick look at what to expect this afternoon in Vinovo.
Keep An Eye On
Juve's Sudden Dip in Form
Listen, as the five-time defending champion and home to some of the best players Italy has produced, these points are mere blips on the radar, but the Juve machine has lost a bit of luster in 2022. From 44 wins in their last 46 home matches, Juve has suddenly drawn three of their last six home matches while failing to keep a clean sheet in their previous seven home contests.
Of course, there is a flip side to that coin...
Can Roma Contain Cristiana Girelli?
After scoring 51 league goals between 2018 and 2020, the 32-year-old Italian striker had a bit of a down year in 2021-2022, managing only seven goals in 17 appearances. But with four goals through her first two matches, Girelli has rediscovered her scoring touch... just not against Roma.
With three career league goals against the Giallorosse, Girelli is the all-time leading scoring in this series, but the Gavardo native hasn't found the back of the net against Roma in her last three matches. It will be up to the new look backline of Elena Linari, Moeka Minami, and/or Carina Wenniger to ensure that streak continues. With Barbara Bonansea still on the sidelines, Girelli will see the lion's share of the touches, so Roma better stay on guard.
Can Giacinti Make it Three in a Row?
The capital's other marquee summer signing, 28-year-old striker extraordinaire Valentina Giacinti, may not have received the same fanfare as Paulo Dybala on the men's side (but then again, who did?), but her impact has been just as significant. While she took a minute to get started in the club's Champions League qualifiers in Glasgow, Giacinti has come alive in recent weeks, scoring in consecutive matches against Pomigliano and Milan.
In what is sure to be a tightly contested affair, Giacinti's scoring touch could be the difference today. With Andressa and Giugliano feeding her into the box and Emilie Haavi, Annamaria Serturini, or Benedetta Glionna stretching the defense on the edges, Giacinti should have plenty of chances to punish the Old Lady.
Today's match may lack the glitz and glamor (or the novelty) of the Champions League, but this is arguably the most critical league match Roma has ever faced. A win today would put Roma five points ahead of Juve and, depending on the league-wide results, could see Roma alone at the top with nine points from three matches.