While it remains to be seen if Roma can exact some league revenge on The Old Lady, knocking Juventus out of the Coppa Italia will surely swing some bragging rights southward to Rome. Since their shellacking in Torino shortly after New Year's Day, Roma has run off three straight victories against decidedly Non-Juventus level opponents, so there may be precious little we can glean from those collective cake walks.
More to the point, the manner in which Roma lost to Juve earlier this month offers virtually no lessons for Rudi Garcia to apply towards this match. Despite losing 3-0 on January 5th, Roma still managed 91% passing and held 59% possession, both better than Juventus on that particular evening. Antonio Conte's crew was just more efficient and effective with their possession, movement, and shot attempts. Sometimes things just shake out like that, tactics be damned.
Consequently, any attempt to wring insight from such a strange and woeful defeat is bound to be fruitless, so let's take a quick look at how Rudi might line ‘em up tomorrow afternoon.
Well, we know what Juve's been up to since their last meeting with Roma, defeating Cagliari and Sampdoria by a collective 8-3 scoreline, but, in case you hadn't noticed, Roma's made some changes of her own.
The most recent change, the signing of Michel Bastos, won't take immediate effect, as he will be just another spectator on Tuesday, but the addition of Radja Nainggolan and the rise of Mattia Destro might be influential factors in this tilt.
Full disclosure time, the real world has gotten in the way today, so this will be an extremely terse preview. With that in mind, let's run down the keys to this coppa clash.
Keep An Eye On
- With only a two day break since the victory over Livorno, Rudi Garcia's distribution of minutes, particularly among the midfield and forwards, is probably the key tactical question heading into this match. We caught a glimpse of his intentions on Saturday, as he rested, to varying extents, Maicon, Alessandro Florenzi, and Francesco Totti, so the smart money has those three cracking the XI tomorrow evening.
- This is a necessary consequence of our first point. Garcia also meted out the midfield minutes over the weekend, leaning more on Daniele De Rossi and Kevin Strootman, leaving Radja Nainggolan and Miralem Pjanic to reserve and quasi reserve roles, respectively. So, following that logic, one would assume the Belgian and the Bosnian would get the nod, presumably with Nainggolan assuming the DDR central role. If his first few appearances haven't proven it to you yet, Radja is very well equipped for this role; we've already seen some impressive footwork and tenacious tackling from #44.
- If Garcia does indeed opt for the trio of Nainggolan, Pjanic and Strootman, he'd better hope they're well rested and focused from minute one. In the previous league encounter, Roma actually bested Juve in passing precision and possession, but that did little to slow down Juve's midfield, particularly Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo. The most central of Juventus' midfielders beat Roma coming and going, with each man carving up Roma's defensive shell from withdrawn and flank positions, while Vidal had eight tackles, two interceptions and two clearances. Quite simply, Roma could neither defend nor defeat the Juventus midfield, and had particular fits with Pirlo and Vidal. If you're looking for a reason why Conte's five man midfield has been so devastating, look no further.
- The tritest of all Latin idioms indeed rings true on this day. In their previous encounter, Roma, despite their sharp passing and strong possession, managed only eight total shots and a measly five chances created, both well off their season marks. Furthermore, six of those eight shots came outside of the 18 yard box. Chances, particularly quality ones, do not come easily against The Old Lady. For Roma to stand a chance at advancing in the Coppa Italia, they must, particularly if Gervinho is involved, make the most of the day. This is where Mattia Destro, should he feature in this match, comes into play. With four goals in only three matches, coming off less than 10 shots, no less, Destro is Roma's most in-form scorer at the moment. If Roma can keep it close, look for #22 to get a lot of touches in the second half, and, as the club's most efficient scorer, they'd better be good ones.
No one ever said the quest for ten would be easy, but with Juventus standing in the way of a trip to the semi-finals, this might be as hard as it gets.