Yet to secure European football for next season, sixth-placed Roma welcome a desperate Venezia side to Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.
While their visitors finally found a win last week, to keep alive hopes of a miraculous escape from relegation, the Giallorossi were beaten by one of their closest rivals in the Serie A standings on Monday and have not taken maximum points for over a month.
Picking up just two points from their last four league games has seen Roma falter domestically, just when things have fallen into place in continental competition.
The Europa Conference League finalists may have earned a place in the inaugural competition’s grand finale, in Tirana later this month, but cannot afford to falter if they are to book a return ticket next term, following Monday night’s defeat at Fiorentina.
Perhaps weary due to a long campaign at home and abroad, Jose Mourinho’s side offered little threat in a 2-0 loss at Stadio Artemio Franchi and now stand on the cusp of a first five-match winless streak since the start of 2018.
After slipping up in Florence, Roma are locked together on points with both the Viola and Atalanta, with just two games remaining, while arch-rivals Lazio occupy fifth in the table; now three points ahead.
A sixth-place finish would secure Europa League qualification, while seventh would result in another Conference League campaign, though the Giallorossi could also qualify for the former by beating Feyenoord in the latter’s first-ever final.
Set to finish the Serie A season with a trip to Torino, they now end their home schedule on Saturday night, having taken 35 points at the Olimpico already this term – fewer only than Inter, Fiorentina and Milan have managed as hosts.
In contrast to recent campaigns, where a leaky defence undermined hopes of a top-four push, Mourinho’s well-marshalled unit may have scored only 25 goals in the process – the club’s lowest tally in a 38-game season is 26, back in 1946-47 – but no side has kept more clean sheets at home.
A total of 10 shutouts leaves them level with champions-elect Milan in that regard, so Venezia will certainly be up against it to repeat the shock scoreline when these teams last met.
Following their dramatic 3-2 win in the reverse fixture, Venezia could do the league double over Roma for the first time in their top-flight history and will definitely need to if they are to retain any hope of survival.
Indeed, they may file out onto the Eternal City’s hallowed turf having already been doomed to an instant Serie B return, should Salernitana continue a recent upsurge in form to win at Empoli earlier in the day.
That slightest flicker of life still remains thanks to a remarkable late victory at Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo last time out, as the Arancioneroverdi battled back to beat Bologna 4-3 with a stoppage-time strike from substitute Dennis Johnsen – they had previously blown a two-goal lead to trail 3-2.
After 10 consecutive league defeats, Venezia’s first Serie A success since February sees them sitting five points adrift of safety, and it still seems that last Thursday’s loss to Salernitana was the definitive blow to their chances of staying up.
Such have been their struggles since returning to the top tier for the first time in two decades, the Lagunari must now aim to win back-to-back league games for only a second time this season – previously doing so in November, against none other than Bologna and Roma.
Roma Serie A form:
Roma form (all competitions):
Venezia Serie A form:
We say: Roma 1-0 Venezia
Only Udinese have scored more goals than Roma’s seven after the 90th minute in Serie A this season, while Venezia have conceded the most times during this period (eight).
So even if the Lagunari’s resistance holds deep into the second half, their more talented hosts will find a way to win and keep their push for a European return going into the final day.