Roma return home to face relegation battlers Novara
Roma will be hoping to put a disappointing loss to league leaders AC Milan behind them when they return home to the Olimpico this weekend to face lowly Novara.
After two straight wins against Palermo and Genoa, respectively, Roma went into the Milan game in high spirits but left the San Siro without any points. The side was buoyed by a solid start and got on the scoresheet first thanks to a Daniel Pablo Osvaldo strike, but two goals from Zlatan Ibrahmovic sealed a 2-1 victory for Milan.
Despite the loss, Roma would have taken plenty of positives out of the Milan match. They dominated the league leaders for large periods of the match, especially early in the second half. They’ll be looking to be quick out of the blocks: Luis Enrique’s side has not won a single match this season where they have conceeded the first goal.
On paper, Roma will certainly like their chances against a Novara side that lie in 19th position, six points ahead of last placed Cesena. It’s not hard to see why the side is firmly inline to be relegated. Novara has the second worst defensive record in the league with 46 goals conceeded from just 28 games, while it has scored less than a goal a game (24). Only Cesena has a worse scoring record of just 16 goals, while 14th placed Genoa has conceeded one more goal (49) to hold the unwanted title of worst defense in the league.
Roma will need to improve their profiency in front of goal in order to prosper against a side that will no doubt sit deep and defend. They’ll have to do without the excellent Fabio Borini, who is out for up to three weeks with a hamstring strain. Erik Lamela or Bojan Krkic are his possible replacements, though the latter will most likely have to be content with yet another substitute role.
Francesco Totti was heavily criticised for his performance during the Milan match. He attempted to audaciously chip Christian Abbiati with the goal at his mercy where a more traditional shot would likely have resulted in a goal. He should be partnered up front by Osvaldo, who will be looking to add to his tally of eight Serie A goals this term.
The absence of Argentine Gabriel Heinze through suspension means that Daniele De Rossi will likely be moved to a central defensive role alongside Simon Kjaer. Brazilian centreback Juan and Marco Cassetti are both injured. Expect Jose Angel to start at left back with Rodrigo Taddei switching to the right. In midfield, the absence of De Rossi is likely to grant a starting opportunity to Leandro Greco who should play alongside Fernando Gago and Miralem Pjanic.
Novara come off a 0-0 stalemate with fellow relegation strugglers Lecce last week but their form has improved since Attilio Tesser returned as coach in place of Emiliano Mondonico. The side had previously won two games straight since he returned, including a 1-0 victory against Udinese and a 2-0 away win against Siena.
Where it will be won
Roma will need to ensure maximum concentration in defense, but Novara will sit deep and attempt to play on the counterattack. The Giallorossi have been wasteful in front of goal on many occasions this season but they can’t afford to do so against a side battling against all odds to avoid relegation. The likes of Totti, Osvaldo and Lamela will need to make the most of any scoring opportunities they are given.
Who matters most: Roma
As Luis Enrique would say, Roma needs a collective 11 man effort to get the points here. However, Francesco Totti will be looking to answer to his critics. Roma will need his experience and guile if they are to knock over a side that will be desperate to steal a point at the very least.
Who matters most: Novara
Brazilian forward Jeda was substituted after only 35 minutes against Lecce last week in what his coach claimed was a “tactical switch”. He’ll be hungry to bounce back and prove his worth against a Roma side that is likely to give him a chance or two to punish them on the counter.
Possible Roma line-up
Possible Novara line-up
(4-4-2) Ujkani; Morganella, Lisuzzo, Paci, Garcia; Gemiti, Porcari, Pesce, Rigoni; Mascara, Jeda
Roma Journal prediction
Roma are expected to get all three points here, but it won’t be easy against a side that is hanging on for dear life and will be desperate to finish the season on a high. In the end, Roma should have too much quality for a side that has conceeded far too many goals this term. 2-0 Roma.