After last Saturday away defeat in Turin to Juventus, AS Roma are back to the Stadio Olimpico this weekend where they will take on Udinese in the Sunday lunchtime game looking for three points in the race for a top 4 finish.
On reflection after the Juventus defeat last weekend, I have seen Roma play a lot worse than that and pick up three points. That is one of the better away performances I have seen from Roma under Paulo Fonseca, they did not crumble mentally like against Atalanta and recently in the Rome derby against Lazio. Conceded two goals at the wrong time against Juventus where they were dominating the game. Just lacked a cutting edge up-front, created a lot of chances but did not really test the Juventus backline.
Just to think that Roma was missing key players in that starting line up from last weekend, Lorenzo Pellegrini was suspended, Chris Smalling was out injured after picking up an injury the week before against Hellas Verona. Edin Dzeko was on the bench after his fall out with the coach and Fonseca is re-introducing him into the squad. Finally, both Bryan Reynolds and Stephan El Shaarawy have joined the club and if we can get them both in the starting XI, you will see a different Roma in the final months of the season.
8 games in 2021 you have seen the two sides of AS Roma this year, the confident start to the year with 7 points from an available 9. Then the kamikaze week that followed with back-to-back defeats at the Olimpico against Lazio in the league and the strange game against Spezia in the Coppa Italia. Another crazy game followed against Spezia in the league where Roma did the best to blow a 3-1 lead only for Lorenzo Pellegrini to score an injury-time winner and you can see the team unity in those celebrations.
The spat between Fonseca and Dzeko continued to the end of the transfer window, rumored to have started after the Sevilla defeat in the Europa League in August. Two games since have seen a strong win over Hellas Verona and a frustrating defeat in Turin where on whole the team played well against a vastly different Juventus side that we have grown accustomed to in recent years. You see Juventus running a muck at the top of the table but now they are in the top 4 and you see both Milan clubs at the top of the table.
I have seen fans of other Serie A clubs comment on Roma performances this season saying that we are flat-track bullies and beat the teams that are from 8-20 and struggle with the teams around them. You can only beat the teams you are up against; Roma have got into the top 4 on merit and the results and the performances do not lie. As I always say, the table never lies, I have seen fans say that Roma have over-perform with the squad that they have. The same people who tipped the club to finish 7th and 8th in the league. This is going to be a tough month ahead with games in the Europa League sandwiched in between games against Benevento and AC Milan. If Roma can get through unscathed then this will be an exciting time till the end of the season.
Udinese are the visitors to the Stadio Olimpico this weekend, they are in 11th place in the Serie A standings with 24 points from 21 games, just three points behind Sampdoria in 10th place. The goal difference is keeping Udinese in 11th place behind a resurgent Genoa side. Udinese are unbeaten in their last 4 league games picking up two wins and two draws. Two draws were against Atalanta and Inter Milan. The last two games have seen maximum points in wins against Spezia away from home and against Hellas Verona with two late goals to seal the points.
This recent run of good form is on the back of a winless run that went 7 games that saw Udinese drop as low as 15th but the recent run of good form with 8 points picked up from 12 available has seen Luca Gotti side look to elevate themselves into the top 10. Before the wins against Spezia and Hellas Verona, Udinese’s last win in the league was back on 12th December with a 3-2 win over Torino. The game before was a brilliant 3-1 win away at Lazio. Udinese did have a game scheduled in between those wins but it was called off due to bad weather at The Dacia arena against Atalanta. What followed was a 9-game winless streak which included defeats to Benevento, Napoli, Juventus, and Sampdoria.
The key player to keep an eye out for Udinese, Juan Musso the goalkeeper who has been one of the top 5 goalkeepers in Serie A since his arrival from Racing Club in the summer of 2018. 14 clean sheets last season in the 38 Serie A games played. This season so far Musso has 6 clean sheets in his 19 Serie A appearances. With Juan Musso in goal, Udinese have conceded 23 goals. In the two games that he missed due to surgery, Udinese conceded 5 goals against Parma and Fiorentina.
The second and final key player for Udinese is Rodrigo De Paul. De Paul has been involved in 7 goals in 20 league appearances with 5 goals and 2 assists spanning 1785 minutes played this season. Wanted last summer by Leeds United, De Paul has been the driving force at Udinese this season. Mainly deployed as Central Midfielder, Rodrigo De Paul can play in an advanced role behind the striker or even in a defensive role protected the back three. His stats for Udinese in Serie A are outstanding 29 goals and 25 assists in 161 appearances. Money well spent from the Udinese hierarchy in the summer of 2016, De Paul was struggling at Valencia after a big-money move from Racing Club in Argentina.
PREDICTED LINE UPS
Pau Lopez, Mancini, Cristante, Ibanez, Karsdorp, Villar, Veretout, Spinazzola, Pellegrini, Mkhitaryan, Borja Mayoral
Musso, Bonifazi, Nuytinck, Samir, Stryger Larsen, De Paul, Walace, Arslan, Zeegelaar, Deulofeu, Llorente.
This is a crucial game for Roma, at the start of a busy few weeks for the club. A win on Sunday against a Udinese side who have hit form will do wonders for confidence in the race for a top 4 spot in the Serie A Table.