Two teams battling for a top four finish convene at Stadio Olimpico on Sunday, as Roma host Juventus, who sit just three points and two places above them in the Serie A standings.
While the Giallorossi slipped to seventh following their defeat to Milan upon Calcio’s midweek resumption, Juve stayed on the coat-tails of the Champions League contenders after coming from behind to draw with Napoli.
Following their tumultuous start to life under Jose Mourinho before the mid-season break, Roma hoped for better when they returned to competitive action on Thursday, but were ultimately unpicked by Milan at San Siro.
When top scorer Tammy Abraham used his arm to block a shot, resulting in an eighth-minute penalty for the Rossoneri, his former Chelsea teammate Olivier Giroud converted the spot-kick, and Roma never looked much like getting back into the game from thereon in.
Though Abraham netted just before the interval and Rui Patricio saved a Zlatan Ibrahimovic penalty, Mourinho’s men ultimately fell to a 3-1 defeat; ending the match with only nine players after both Rick Karsdorp and Gianluca Mancini were shown their marching orders late on.
The capital club had won two of their last three games in 2021 to offer a glimmer of hope that some elusive fluency and consistency could be found, but their most recent setback represented a sixth loss from 10 attempts away from home in Serie A.
By contrast, before Juventus come to town on Sunday, Roma have won six of their 10 matches at the Olimpico this term – keeping five clean sheets in the process.
Mourinho will be concerned, though, that his team have only managed two victories there from their six most recent outings, and they must now face opponents that have beaten them in both of the teams’ last two meetings – and five of the last nine in the league.
Sitting fifth in the table after the opening round of the post-Christmas schedule, Juventus arrive in the capital three points clear of Roma and just the same number behind fourth-placed Atalanta, who have a game in hand due to their clash with the Bianconeri’s city rivals Torino being called off on Thursday.
Having won five of their last six games in 2021, Juve welcomed Napoli to the Allianz Stadium in midweek, and came away with a hard-earned point against their southern counterparts, after Federico Chiesa drove home a deflected second-half equaliser.
Recently returned from injury, Chiesa was one of the few bright sparks for Max Allegri’s side on the resumption of a so-far underwhelming campaign, in which they have registered a relatively meagre 28 league goals – four fewer than Roma and the lowest tally in the top half of the table. Indeed, the last time their attack proved so ineffective in the first 20 matches of a Serie A season was as long ago as 1999-00.
Currently on 35 points, the last three times that Juventus collected that many or fewer at this stage, they finished the season down in seventh place – an unthinkable return for Allegri this year.
Therefore, they must endeavour to continue a run of seven games without defeat this weekend, and maintain a defensive revival that has seen them concede just twice during that spell – even without their ageing defensive duo of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci in situ.
On that platform, the Old Lady can aspire to ascend the standings, if only their goal-shy strikers can turn things around in the final third.
Roma Serie A form:
Roma form (all competitions):
Juventus Serie A form:
Juventus form (all competitions):
We say: Roma 0-1 Juventus
There may not be many goals in this encounter at the Olimpico, as Juve are focusing on keeping things solid and hoping for inspiration to strike in this latest phase of Max Allegri’s management.
A makeshift defence may creak here and there, but the visitors managed to hold Napoli to a draw in midweek and can go one better by beating Roma for the third time in succession.