Tuesday, October 28 th, 2014
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Manchester City's opponent tonight: AS Roma analysis
The Giallorossi are prepared for a hard and ambitious season as they'll face the toughest Champions League group. The squad is deeper and more experienced, but the loss of Benatia is not to be taken light-heartedly
by Federico Formica
It will be a tough task for Manchester City to beat AS Roma, as the Giallorossi won each one of the six official games in the current season (5 Serie A games, one in Champions League against CSKA). 

Coach Rudi Garcia will have to renounce to four regulars: the holding midfielder Daniele De Rossi, the centre-backs Leandro Castan and Davide Astori are injured and the winger Juan Manuel Iturbe is about to recover: the Argentinian has been included in the squad list and will sit on the bench. Kevin Strootman and Federico Balzaretti are long-term injured. An ex Premier League legend, Ashley Cole, will be at the Etihad Stadium, but his presence as a starter is in doubt, as Rudi Garcia might deploy the Torosidis on the left and Maicon on the right flank. The ex Chelsea is still struggling in his Italian spell, as our tactic analysis proved.

Manuel Pellegrini's team will have to look out for Francesco Totti (obviously), Gervinho and Mattia Destro, who scored an amazing goal from 45 meters last Saturday (watch the goal).

Let's take a look to Roma ambitions, weaknesses and strong points.

Last year’s rank: 
Roma started the 2013-2014 season amid the disappointment and the rage of their fans, after their second ruinous season and a Coppa Italia final lost to the city rivals of Lazio. Rudi Garcia managed to turn such disillusion into hope and enthusiasm as the Giallorossi were the only rival of Juventus for most of the season. They ended second, gaining a straight Champions League qualification, a competition they were out of for three years.


Most significant signings:

Juan Manuel Iturbe (winger) from Hellas Verona for €22M

Kostas Manolas (centre-back) from Olympiakos for €13 M

Ashley Cole (full-back) from Chelsea as a free-agent

Davide Astori (centre-back) from Cagliari on loan for €2 M with option to buy

Most significant departures:

Mehdi Benatia (centre-back) to Bayern Munich for €26 M

Alessio Romagnoli (centre-back) to Sampdoria on loan for €1 M

Rodrigo Taddei (full-back) to Perugia for free


Transfer Market evaluation (earnings 32,6M €/expenditures 58M € (source transfermarkt.it)
Roma's summer transfer window headed in three directions: the search for a Gervinho alter-ago, more alternatives on the defensive bands and a replacement for Mehdi Benatia, who spent three months with his bags packed. Finally, the soap-opera ended and the Moroccan ace signed for Bayern Munich so the sporting director Walter Sabatini chose the Greek Kostas Manolas to fill the void. Will it be the same? After five Serie A games, the answer is "yes." The Greek wall fears no one and gives confidence to his team-mates. He's proving himself as one of the best centre-backs in Serie A. And don't forget Davide Astori, an experienced defender who knows every side of many Serie A forwards.

Regarding the other two missions, Iturbe is perfect for Garcia's play and the arrivals of Ashley Cole, Urby Emanuelson and Josè Holebas give more choice to the French coach on the flanks. 

Keita is another “instant player”: experience at the highest levels (at Barcelona) to help the Giallorossi survive in the Group of Death (against Bayern Munich, Manchester City and CSKA Moscow). The departure of Alessio Romagnoli is a shame, as he proved to be one of the most promising Italian defenders. Fortunately Roma preserved the right to re-buy him for less than one million. Roma fans have no regrets about Dodò's sale to Inter.

As a whole, Roma is a stronger side: more complete and more experienced. Maybe another centre-forward would have been useful, as Mattia Destro is the only authentic target-man and Marco Borriello seems a million miles away from his best form. Francesco Totti cannot be considered as a mere forward, as he has the freedom to show his world-class wherever he wants.

Tactic key and lineup
Garcia will adopt his usual 4-3-3 which can be easily transformed in a 4-3-2-1. Roma will play, even more than the past season, with their wingers Gervinho and Iturbe (or Liajic) counting on the offensive runs of Radja Nainggolan and (when he'll recover from his injury) Kevin Strootman. Miralem Pjanić will give talent and fantasy to Roma's manoeuvre. The rest depends on the third attacking player: when it's Totti, Garcia prefers his wingers to cut inside and Pjanić to be a bit more cautious, when it's Destro, Roma plays deeper, with Gervinho and Iturbe who tend to keep wider and Pjanic more offensive to support Destro's movement.


Starting lineup: De Sanctis; Maicon, Castan, Manolas, Cole; De Rossi, Nainggolan (Strootman), Pjanic; Gervinho, Totti (Destro), Iturbe.

Key Player
Can a 38 year-old player be considered as an essential element for the play of his squad? If the player is Francesco Totti, the answer is “yes”. Il Capitano is still the soul of the Giallorossi: when he's on the pitch everyone is egged on to show his best, he's the best assist-man of the team: with a 40-meter pass he can put a team-mate in front of the opposite goalkeeper. And don't forget his charisma and grit: for Roma fans, Totti's defensive recoveries when he – rarely, indeed – loses the ball are a normality.

Main objective
No doubts: Roma's goal is the fourth Scudetto. Obviously the Champions League won't be underrated: the Group is tough, maybe out of reach. Should Roma's hopes still be alive come February, they'll become a time bomb.

Reasons to be optimistic
The coach and his group have one fruitful year of work together in their legs. The squad perfectly knows what Rudi Garcia wants from them and this will allow the new signings to absorb the Giallorossi's football philosophy more easily. The team has significantly improved in depth and quality: Roma fans are daydreaming.


What could go wrong?
Point one: this season Roma will have to deal with the most important – and energy-consuming – competition in the world: the Champions League. Garcia will not have an entire week to prepare every match anymore and the experienced players (Cole, Maicon, Totti, Keita) also have their downside: they get tired earlier. How will they react in the busiest spells, when you have to play a game every three days? The centre-forward position is another question mark: what happens if Destro suffers another injury? Totti cannot play 90 minutes in a single game, not to mention 9-10 games in a month. And Marco Borriello – after his latest Premier League fiasco – simply cannot carry that weight on his shoulders.

Tuesday, September 30 th, 2014
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