Friday, January 21, 2022

Prediction: AS Roma vs Juventus

Veselin Trajkovic in Free Soccer Predictions 8 Jan 2022

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Verdict: Total goals under 2.5

Best odds: 10/11

Bookmaker: Unibet

The race for the top four places in the Serie A this season is heating up, and on Sunday at the Stadio Olimpico, AS Roma will welcome Juventus in the 20th league match of the campaign for both sides, and one that could answer a question or two regarding this particular battle.

AS Roma

Roma are certainly the team with more to lose should this match end in defeat for them. At the moment, Jose Mourinho’s team are in seventh place with 32 points, the same tally as Fiorentina and city rivals Lazio on either side, three less than Juventus in fifth, and six less than Atalanta in fourth.

There has rarely been a dull season when the experienced Portuguese tactician is in charge of a team. It started well enough, with five wins from the opening five matches, but the performances and the results soon started dropping away. The biggest shock came in the form of a 6-1 thrashing suffered at the hands of Norwegian side Bodo/Glimt in the Europa Conference League in October, and it was equally surprising when the Romans failed to beat the Norwegian side on home turf as well. Nonetheless, Roma secured progress by topping the group in the end.

Roma’s last six matches in all competitions include a 0-3 defeat at home to league leaders Inter Milan, a 2-3 win over CSKA in Sofia in the ECL, a 2-0 home win over Spezia, a surprising but very welcome 1-4 triumph away to Atalanta, a 1-1 draw at home against Sampdoria, and a 3-1 defeat to AC Milan earlier this week. Olivier Giroud (penalty) and Junior Messias gave the hosts a two-goal lead within 17 minutes, and Tammy Abraham halved it the 40th. Rafael Leao was to have the final say for the Rossoneri in the 81st, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic failed to score from the spot late on. Centre-back Gianluca Mancini and wingback Rick Karsdorp both sent off in that match through double bookings.

Team News

Roma have reportedly completed everything around the signing of Ainsley Maitland-Niles on loan from Arsenal, including registering his contract, and the 24-year-old seems set to be at Mourinho’s disposal on Sunday, though there has still been no official confirmation from the club. Apart from that, even if the deal has been done, it remains to be seen if Mourinho would be willing to count on a player that could hardly have had sufficient training with the rest of the team.

Karsdorp and Mancini are both unavailable of course, following the red cards received against Milan. Striker Borja Mayoral and goalkeeper Daniel Fuzato have recently tested positive for COVID-19 and are isolating. Midfielders Amadou Diawara and Ebrima Darboe have been called up to represent Guinea and Gambia, respectively, at the African Cup of Nations. Leonardo Spinazzolla has been absent with an Achilles tendon rupture since the Euros last summer, and he isn’t expected back for another month or so.

If Maitland-Niles is deemed ready to play, he could slot straight into the starting XI in the place of Karsdorp at right wingback; if not, it’ll likely be a choice between the experience of Davide Santon and the youth of Bryan Reynolds. In the absence of Mancini, Chris Smalling and Roger Ibanez are likely to be joined by Marash Kumbulla in the back line. Jordan Veretout and Bryan Cristante should occupy the two central midfield slots, with Mathias Vina on the left. Upfront, Abraham should be supported by Lorenzo Pellegrini and Nicolo Zaniolo.

Juventus

Having won the Serie A title for nine seasons in a row, Juventus have finally been stripped of the crown by Inter Milan the last time around and they’ve lost much ground in their attempt to regain it this term. It’s not impossible, but it’s highly unlikely that they manage it.

As has been said above, the Old Lady are currently in fifth place with 35 points, 11 behind Inter at the top, 10 behind AC Milan in second, and five behind Napoli in third, and three behind Atalanta in fourth. If they can manage to grab a Champions League spot, it’ll probably be all they can do from this perspective, and even that is far from guaranteed.

If there’s one thing that bodes well for Massimiliano Allegri and his men, it’s the fact that their form has improved recently. They haven’t lost a match since November, and their run of last six consists of a 2-0 home win over Genoa, a 1-0 Champions League triumph over Malmo, a 1-1 draw away to Venezia, a 0-2 win away to Bologna, a 2-0 home win over Cagliari, and a 1-1 draw at home against Napoli. Dries Mertens broke the deadlock for the visitors in that match in the 23rd minute, and Federico Chiesa equalized in the 54th.

Team News

When it comes to the transfer market, there has been plenty of talk involving Juventus and that’s hardly a surprise. Recent reports suggest Barcelona have made contact over striker Alvaro Morata, and Mino Raiola, who represents defender Matthijs de Ligt, has been raising dust for a while. On the other hand, it’s been said Fiorentina striker Dusan Vlahovic favours a move to Turin ahead of the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, having rejected an offer of a new contract to stay in Florence. However, it’s also been said that Manchester City may yet decide to step into the fray for the signature of the Serbia international. Midfielder Aaron Ramsey is also being linked with departure, with a return to the Premier League named as the most likely option.

Giorgio Chiellini, who contracted COVID-19 last week, should be available again after testing negative for the virus. On the other hand, Allegri might choose not to risk his veteran captain now with the Supercoppa Italiana against Inter to come on Wednesday.

If so, De Ligt could pair up with Daniele Rugani in the heart of defence, as was the case against Napoli. Juan Cuadrado and Alex Sandro are likely to be on the defensive flanks. Rodrigo Bentacur, Manuel Locatelli and Weston McKennie seem the obvious choice for the midfield three, though Adrien Rabiot and Arthur are in contention as well. Morata should be leading the line upfront with Federico Bernardeschi on one flank, but it remains to be seen if Allegri risks Chiesa, who recently returned from an injury and seems to lack fitness at the moment, or gives that spot to Paulo Dybala.

Conclusion

A Juventus win would go a long way in reducing Roma’s chances to finish in the top four, but the Old Lady don’t really have to win this match – they simply mustn’t lose, or they’ll let Mourinho’s team back into the fray fully. Roma, on the other hand, need to win, and they’ll likely go all out to get there.

This is one of those matches that could go in any direction, but at the moment, Juventus seem more likely to get what they want. There shouldn’t be many goals in it.

Verdict: Total goals under 2.5

Best odds: 10/11

Bookmaker: Unibet

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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