A floundering Empoli will hope to halt a recently resurgent Roma as they clash at the Stadio Carlo Castellani later today.
Marco Giampaolo’s side have been in very poor form as of late, and in fact, the Azzurri will be coming into this match having failed to win their last seven matches in Serie A. This is indeed a disappointing 2016 to date for a team that at one point were hoping to make an unlikely push for a Europa League spot, and in fact, the hosts’ only win was back on January 10th, when they edged out Torino 1-0. Since then, Empoli have only picked up four points from their past seven matches.
A crushing loss to Napoli – especially given the impressive firepower of the Partenopei – was not surprising, but dropping points against lowly Frosinone and against Sassuolo, a team with whom they appear to be pretty evenly matched in their past two matches will have left supporters feeling frustrated with the team’s performance since the start of the new year.
With two of their key players – Riccardo Saponara and Lorenzo Tonelli – out due to suspension, Empoli will have some major concerns, and given that two additional defensive options – Andrea Costa and Lorenzo Ariaudo – are struggling with injury, Giampaolo will have some major problems at the back. The reverse fixture earlier this season concluded as a 3-1 win in favor of the visitors and Empoli’s dismal form, coupled with the absentees of several important players, does not make for good reading for the Tuscan side as they desperately hope to arrest a downward slide in results.
Meanwhile, Roma fans will probably be wishing that Luciano Spalletti had arrived at the club much sooner. Since the departure of French tactician Rudi Garcia, Spalletti, now in his second spell at the capital outfit has overseen an impressive turnaround that have now seen them pick up five consecutive wins. Although the Scudetto is looking highly unlikely – albeit not entirely impossible given that there are many more games left to play – the Giallorossi are likely looking to consolidate third spot so as to have another shot at featuring in the Champions League next season.
It will be a tough race for third, as Fiorentina, now out of the Europa League, and Inter, who were once touted as a title contender, are also making their own aggressive pushes for that coveted berth. Sandwiched between the Viola and the Nerazzurri, Roma will be able to move ahead of Paulo Sousa’s side by picking up their sixth consecutive league win, and given that the Viola face a tough test against Napoli on Monday, whilst Inter battle the Bianconeri tomorrow, this game will represent a clear-cut chance for the Lupi to potentially lock down third by the time this round concludes at the end of this month.
As many fans are well aware, Francesco Totti has been re-called back into the squad, with the battle between the veteran attacker and his coach over playing time spilling quite a bit of ink in the press. However, due to Edin Dzeko’s solid performance in the team’s demolition of Palermo, coupled with the presence of Mohamed Salah, Diego Perotti, and Stephan El Shaarawy, who will return to the starting XI after being rested, don’t expect to see Totti anywhere near the starting XI anytime soon. The 39-year-old may receive a bit of minutes here and there, but the general consensus is unfortunately, the sun appears to have already set on his glittering career and his beloved club already appear to be looking forward to building for the future.
Daniele De Rossi will still be out, but supporters will be pleased that Kevin Strootman has finally returned to the fold after his long injury lay-off. Given that Roma have scored at least two goals in their past five matches, as well as are unbeaten in their last six games against Empoli, expect goals in this one – and more likely than not for the visitors – as they hope to continue making 2016 a good year after their frustrations during the latter part of 2015.
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