Separated by a point near the summit of the Serie A standings, top-four contenders Roma and Atalanta BC clash at Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.
While the Giallorossi responded to successive losses with two wins in less than a week, the visitors arrive in the capital still unbeaten this term, having equalled the club’s best start to a season after six games.
Previously beaten on the opening day of the Europa League group stage, Roma got off the mark in continental competition with a 3-0 win over Finnish champions HJK Helsinki on Thursday evening; benefiting hugely from their visitors going down to 10 men early on.
That victory followed a Serie A success against Empoli three days previously, and banished thoughts of back-to-back losses against Ludogorets and Udinese – the latter a chastening 4-0 defeat.
Once again, summer signing Paulo Dybala was instrumental in midweek – despite only appearing as a half-time substitute – and after opening the scoring in Roma’s last two games, he has been involved in five of their eight Serie A goals this season (three of his own and two assists), plus one of four in Europe.
Already a fan favourite at the Olimpico after a few short weeks, Dybala will surely be central to his club’s hopes of progressing to the Europa League knockout stages and in the fight for a top-four finish come June.
With the injury-prone striker starting more often than not, Roma have picked up one point more at this stage of the season than at the equivalent point last term, as they continue the second year of Jose Mourinho’s reign in Rome.
Their aberration against Udinese aside, the Giallorossi have conceded only two other goals in Serie A so far; winning both of their last two home matches without conceding. Not only that, but they have also won both of their previous meetings with Atalanta under Mourinho.
Aiming to avoid a third straight loss to Roma for the first time since 2011, Atalanta arrive in the Eternal City as one of four sides still undefeated after six rounds of the current campaign.
With 14 points already racked up, and only three goals conceded, La Dea can now surpass the best start after seven rounds in the club’s top-flight history – but only with a win.
A rejuvenated force this season, after a substandard first half of 2022, the Nerazzurri led the table before last week’s game against Cremonese, but a 1-1 draw with the promoted side allowed Napoli to surpass them at the summit on goal difference.
Though a relatively friendly fixture list has certainly aided their cause, Atalanta have nonetheless won their last three away games without conceding a single goal.
After undertaking a refresh of his squad over the summer, head coach Gian Piero Gasperini has set about showing that the Bergamaschi can regain their hard-won place among the Italian elite, but they now face a serious test of their credentials on Sunday.
Roma Serie A form:
Roma form (all competitions):
Atalanta BC Serie A form:
We say: Roma 2-1 Atalanta BC
While their visitors are clearly benefiting from empty midweeks, having failed to qualify for Europe last term, Roma were able to cruise through the latter stages of their Thursday night match after HJK’s captain was sent off.
Therefore, the combination of home advantage and greater individual ability up front should decide a closely contested affair in the Giallorossi’s favour.