Marco Giampaolo takes his Siena side to the capital on Saturday evening knowing his team need to start score goals if they are to avoid slipping into a relegation dog fight. The seven point cushion they have over the drop zone may give them a little breathing space, but with only two points in four games and 19 goals to their credit all season, the former Cagliari Coach knows his team can’t afford to rest on their laurels.
Poor away form has been the undoing of the Bianconeri and with nine defeats, two draws and only one win on the road all season their gradual slide down the league will be a growing cause for concern. With only seven goals to their credit on their travels it is clear where Siena’s problem lies. Giampaolo however, has recently secured the services of veteran striker Nicola Amoruso and he will be hoping the 34-year-old can forge a partnership with Massimo Maccarone and help fire his side clear of imminent danger.
Roma is a difficult place to go and pick up points and is probably not where the Siena Coach will see his side improve their away record. Luciano Spalletti’s men have lost just once at the Stadio Olimpico all season and with 20 goals to their credit have scored twice as many as they have conceded. Indeed, last weeks 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Atalanta was i Lupi’s first league defeat of the year and after missing out on the opportunity to move into fourth spot, the Giallorossi will be desperate to return to winning ways and put their season back on track. The 16-point deficit behind leaders Inter seemingly condemns their Scudetto campaign to also-rans, but securing a Champions League spot is by no means beyond them.
Marco Motta, on loan from Udinese, is expected to retain his place at right-back after two convincing performances in place of Brazilian Cicinho – currently sidelined with knee ligament damage. The promising young fullback, captain of Italy’s Under-21 side, has plenty of pace and his powerful runs down the flank will provide support in advanced areas. Following his dismissal in Atalanta, Simone Perrotta is unavailable and will most likely be replaced with either David Pizarro or Rodrigo Taddei who is available for selection after serving a one-match suspension for his red card against Genoa.
One player Spalletti will be grateful to have at his disposal is Francesco Totti who has come through the last two games unscathed following his return from yet another injury setback. However, with an important Champions League confrontation with Arsenal the following Tuesday, the Giallorossi Coach may decide to use his talismanic captain sparingly and rest him in the latter stages of the second half if his side look to have the game wrapped up. Julio Baptista could also be in line for a start as his power and pace will trouble a fragile Siena backline.
Despite a tendency to leak goals, Giampaolo is likely to keep with Daniele Portanova and Jardim Brandao in the heart of defence flanked by Juan Zuniga and Cristian Del Grosso in the fullback berths with Paul Codrea given the holding role in an attempt to keep the capital sides roaming strike force at bay. The Bianconeri Coach may decide that the best form of defence is attack and will want Daniele Galloppa and captain Simone Vergassola to take charge in the midfield to prevent Roma’s influential pair of Matteo Brighi and Alberto Aquilani (in for the suspended Daniele De Rossi) stamping their authority on the game.
With Roma’s experienced want-away defender Cristian Panucci unlikely to be considered, Spalletti will keep with the back four that started the game against Atalanta, but having conceded three goals last weekend Philippe Mexes and his central partner, Juan may have reason to feel vulnerable. Bianconeri playmaker Abdelkader Ghezzal must look to capitalise on his opponent’s mental state and with some clever interchanges in the final third can pressure them into forced errors. Juan in particular has not looked convincing at times this season and could prove to be a chink in the Giallorossi armour.
Maccarone was a constant thorn in the side of Udinese last weekend and will be buoyed by his goal despite it resulting from his initial penalty miss. Having only found the net on four occasions all season, the former Middlesbrough man is still searching for his goal-scoring form. Compare this with Mirko Vucinic who has netted eight in eighteen starts and it is clear who is the more likely danger man. The Montenegrin has been in inspired form and alongside Totti and is a constant threat to opposition defences.
Two points adrift of fourth placed Fiorentina, who are expected to beat Chievo in Florence, Spalletti will be desperate not to see his side lose ground after mounting the table in spectacular fashion since being in the lower echelons in November. Giampaolo on the other hand will be wondering how his side can get more goals whilst keeping them out at the other end. Don’t be surprised if he comes to the capital intent on taking a point from a goalless draw.