AS Roma v Fiorentina Preview
Stadio Olimpico, Rome
by Jerrad Peters (@jerradpeters)
MATCH IN A SENTENCE: Roma have been working their way up the standings in recent weeks and are currently one of the form teams in Italy, but they’ve won only once against a time higher than them in the standings so far this season and will be looking to prove they can play with the Serie A elite when they host fourth-place Fiorentina, who haven’t lost since September.
BREAKDOWN: Since losing the Derby della Capitale 3-2 to Lazio on November 11, AS Roma have won three consecutive matches in the league and come into Saturday’s encounter with Fiorentina in sixth place in the ledger, just three points back of their city rivals and the European places.
But it’s been the manner of the victories that has been especially encouraging to Giallorossi manager Zdenek Zeman. While his side continue to play free-flowing, attractive football they have also kept two clean sheets in their last three outings—their 2-0 win over Torino in November 19 representing their first shutout since early October.
It’s this sort of form that has club captain Francesco Totti excited about what Roma can accomplish this season, and earlier this week he told reporters the Giallorossi were still in the title race.
“Zeman really believes in the Scudetto,” he said. “We stayed united after falling behind [in September and October]. We reacted like a great team would.”
Fiorentina, meanwhile, are legitimate title threats and arrive in the Italian capital only six points adrift of league leaders Juventus and two points back of Inter Milan and the final Champions League place.
La Viola acquired more than a dozen players during the summer, many of whom made immediate contributions as soon as they came into manager Vincenzo Montella’s squad.
Montella, a former Roma striker and manager, has worked wonders with his pieced-together side this season, and through 15 rounds only Roma, Napoli and Juventus have scored more goals than Fiorentina and only Napoli and Juventus have conceded fewer.
All the investment by owners Diego and Andrea Della Valle has also served to keep star striker Stevan Jovetic happy at the club. The 23-year-old Montenegro forward has scored six goals in Serie A this season and says he has no plans to leave the club anytime soon.
“My relationship with the Della Valle family is very good,” he said in an interview with Rai Sport. “I was promised that the squad would be reinforced in the summer, and they have kept their word. It is hugely gratifying to me.
About Montella Jovetic remarked, “The quality of our coach is there for everyone to see. It is true that we have been playing better than we have in previous years.”
ESSENTIALS: Roma are still without forward Erik Lamela, which means Gonzalo Destro will keep his place in the team, and both full-back Rodrigo Taddei and goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg are questionable and will be re-evaluated closer to kickoff.
Fiorentina defender Michele Camporese is injured, and forward Adem Ljajic is likely to miss Saturday’s match as well.
KEY BATTLE: Federico Balzaretti has been giving Roma some consistent performances at left-back in recent weeks, but the Italy international will face a stiff test on Saturday in the form of Fiorentina winger Juan Cuadrado, who will be looking to provide service for Jovetic and Matias Fernandez from the right attacking flank.
FORMATIONS: Zeman will deploy his favoured 4-3-3 formation with Pablo Osvaldo, Totti and Destro along the forward line. Montella will use a 3-5-1-2 formation with Cuadrado and Manuel Pasqual out side and Fernandez operating in the hole just behind Jovetic.
BETLINE: AS Roma 19/20; Draw 11/4; Fiorentina 5/2. Fiorentina were 2-1 winners in the corresponding fixture last season.