AS Roma edged past Empoli at the Stadio Carlo Castellani on Monday night in Serie A to avoid a third consecutive defeat in all competitions but will need to secure a comprehensive victory against HJK in the Europa League before returning to domestic action.
Either side of the upcoming international break, the Giallorossi welcome high-flying Atalanta to the capital and then visit Scudetto hopefuls Inter at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza – two fixtures that could well impact their own Champions League qualification hopes.
Paulo Dybala gave Roma an early lead in Tuscany, but despite the former Juventus attacker’s best efforts, they struggled to pull away from the Azzurri, who equalised just before half-time through Filippo Bandinelli. However, on 71 minutes, the Argentine’s influence was visible once more, providing the assist for Tammy Abraham to win the game.
Are Roma already over-relying on Dybala?
Jose Mourinho’s men looked far too dependent on the 28-year-old during his 81 minutes on the pitch, almost always seeking Dybala out when on the attack and frustrating him when failing to capitalise on the opportunities he provided.
Fellow playmaker and captain Lorenzo Pellegrini should have doubled Roma’s lead after a perfectly weighted return pass, but snatched at his attempt just yards from the goal. Then, when expected to put three points beyond doubt, sent his penalty against the crossbar.
Despite this being the Giallorossi’s best start to a campaign since 2017/18 – with 13 points from a possible 15 – and just one point away from Serie A leaders Napoli, the Romans are averaging just 1.33 goals per game. Rather than displaying greater attacking cohesiveness, the team still looks disjointed and, more crucially, now looks vulnerable in defence.
Roma had twice as many attempts on goal than European opponents Ludogorets, but found themselves one goal down. When they did equalise four minutes from full-time through Eldor Shomurodov, though, the Bulgarians exposed their current defensive frailties two minutes later to win the game.
Different challenges to come for Roma, goals are needed
Against Atalanta and Inter, the Giallorossi will have to be more clinical in front of goal or tighten up defensively. La Dea tend to pose a particularly unpredictable attacking threat, despite Teun Koopmeiners’ current goal-scoring form – four goals in six games – and might force Roma to outscore the side from Bergamo. Therefore, it could be the ideal time for new striking arrival Andrea Belotti to open his Lupi account.
The Giallorossi could overcome Inter with a more Mourinho-style show of defensive resilience, given the 2020/21 champions’ own recent goal-scoring struggles, but ideally will have improved at both ends of the pitch by Matchday 7, and shown that in Europe.
If not, the side from the capital will quickly find themselves out of the Scudetto race and starting to drift away from Champions League qualification contention.