Going into their Halloween match with Inter, they were 11 points ahead of the Bianconeri, who were 12th at the time. Now Roma are in fifth—three points behind Juve in fourth. This is becoming a pattern. For the better part of a decade, Roma has had one of the most talented teams in Serie A. Their problem is between the ears. Around this time in each of the last three seasons they've forgotten how to win. Two years ago, the triggering incident was a demoralizing 3-0 loss at the Juventus Stadium. Last year, it was the 7-1 thrashing they endured against Bayern Munich in the Champions League. They don't lose often in these periods, but they do endure long strings of draws that drop them out of contention. The recurrence of this problem has begun loud speculation about manager Rudi Garcia.
Pjanic was suspended for the Chievo game, and it showed. William Vainqueur didn't come close to replicating his brilliant passing ability. And when the Giallorossi stall in open play, his free-kick deliveries —which, after the departure of Andrea Pirlo from Juventus to New York City FC are probably the best in Serie A—can turn games on a dime. With Daniele De Rossi's fitness in question, Pjanic becomes the fulcrum of the midfield, and, indeed, the entire team. That's especially true without Francesco Totti, who is injured as well and, frankly, showing himself to be a husk of his former self. Without their usual talismans, Roma is going to look hard at Pjanic to make the team go.
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AS Roma vs. AC Milan: Preview, Predicted Lineups, Live Stream, TV InfoMilan beat Roma 2-1 in their last meeting in May. Marco Luzzani/Getty ImagesTwo teams in serious crisis lock horns as AC Milan travel to AS Roma in a crucial Serie A clash on Saturday. Date: Saturday, January 9Time: 8:45 local time, 7:45 GMT, 2:45 ESTVenue: Stadio Olimpico, RomeTV Info: BT Sport (UK)Live Stream: beIN Sports Connect (US)Saturday's game could decide the fates of two coaches, with both teams in crisis mode. For Roma, the reversal has been stunning. After 10 games, they were leading the league. The second week of the season they had beaten four-time defending champion Juventus for the first time since the 2012-13 season.
While director Mauro Baldissoni told Mediaset Premium (h/t Football Italia) that the Frenchman's job is not at risk, outlets like TeleRoma56 (h/t Football Italia), have reported throughout the month of December that former coach Luciano Spalletti is getting ready to take over. If Garcia's job rides on this game—and after blowing a 2-0 lead to draw 3-3 against Chievo on Wednesday, it just might—he's going to have to turn in one of his best coaching performances. His team is decimated by injuries and suspensions, and he's going to have to outthink Sinisa Mihajlovic in order to win.
He spent €86. 4 million in the transfer window this summer and expects to be contending for the title. It's a completely unrealistic goal—but that's never stopped Berlusconi before. Berlusconi has repeatedly criticized his new manager, and Wednesday's lackluster loss against Bologna—their second home loss this year and the fourth time they have failed to win—came at an inopportune time. Mediaset reported on Thursday morning (h/t Football Italia) that no decision will be made on his fate until next week's Coppa Italia quarterfinal against Carpi.
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It's likely that he'll be safe if he advances to the semis, provided something disastrous doesn't happen in Rome on Saturday. But he'll need to keep his team disciplined and sharp in order to win away from home. Form LinesLast 5 Matches, all competitions, most recent firstRomaMilanD 3-3 @ ChievoL 1-0 vs. BolognaW 2-0 vs. GenoaW 4-2 @ FrosinoneD 0-0 vs. Spezia*W 2-0 @ Sampdoria*D 0-0 @ NapoliD 1-1 vs. VeronaD 0-0 vs. BATE Borisov**D 0-0 @ CarpiWhoScored. com Roma Notes:*Coppa Italia, lost penalty shootout 4-2**UEFA Champions League Group StageMilan Notes:*Coppa ItaliaProjected LineupsRoma (4-3-3)Milan (4-4-2)SzczesnyDonnarummaMaicon Manolas Rudiger DigneAbate Romagnoli Alex AntonelliFlorenzi Pjanic NainggolanCerci Montolivo Bertolacci BonaventuraSalah Umar GervinhoNiang BaccaKey PlayersMaurizio Lagana/Getty ImagesWith Edin Dzeko still suspended after verbally abusing a referee before the winter break, a tremendous burden falls on his Bosnian countryman Miralem Pjanic on Saturday.
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If he can't, Garcia will find himself under even more pressure. Marco Luzzani/Getty ImagesOn the other end of the field, Milan needs to start scoring with more consistency. For every game that they have won 3-1 (at Lazio), 4-1 (vs. Sampdoria) and 4-2 (at Frosinone), they go two more without scoring at all. Since the beginning of November, Milan hasn't won a game in which they scored one goal or fewer. Wednesday's game against Bologna was Milan's third such game in their last four, sandwiched around the Frosinone win. What was unusual about this defeat was that unlike games against Juventus, Napoli or Atalanta, the creatively challenged Rossoneri had plenty of opportunities. They recorded 16 shots, but only four of them hit the target.
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From the middle of September to the end of October, they won five straight. They held mighty Barcelona to a 1-1 draw at home in the Champions League. But then things started to fell apart. Knocked off their perch by fellow title contenders Inter on Halloween night, they have only won twice since. That fallow period was punctuated by an embarrassing 6-1 reversal in the return with Barca and an even more humiliating exit from the Coppa Italia on penalties after 120 goalless minutes against second-tier Spezia. There had been warning signs of such a swoon.
Even the Giallorossi's signature moment—the win over Juve—wasn't without its warts. Even though they outplayed their rivals, it took nearly an hour and a direct free kick to open the scoring. Even after doubling their lead thanks to a defensive mistake, they very nearly threw the match away in stoppage time. A fingertip save by Wojciech Szczezny was all that came between them and dropped points. Their relationship to Juventus in the table tells the story.
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