Sunday’s Serie A programme closes out at the Stadio Olimpico as top-four hopefuls Roma take on newly-promoted Lecce in contrasting circumstances. Two sides with opposite goals set for the ongoing season will trade tackles in Italy’s capital, and it’s time to preview the game.
Roma battled back from a 1-0 deficit to claim a morale-boosting 2-1 victory at Inter last weekend, maintaining their see-saw form at the start of the Serie A season. Since drawing 1-1 with Juventus in late August, Jose Mourinho’s men have alternated between winning and losing in their subsequent league outings (W3, L2).
Unfortunately for Mourinho, his men were unable to follow the stunning with at Giuseppe Meazza in the Europa League on Thursday. Despite taking the lead through Paulo Dybala’s penalty late in the first half, Roma found themselves on the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline against Real Betis at home.
After losing two of their opening three Europa League fixtures in Group C, the Italian powerhouse’s bid to progress into the competition’s knockouts are hanging by a thread. Therefore, Roma will be out to bounce back against bottom-half strugglers Lecce, who have shown signs of improvement since mid-September onwards.
Unbeaten in three consecutive Serie A contests (W1, D2) since a 1-0 beating to Torino, Marco Baroni’s team fought back from a goal down to hold fellow newcomers Cremonese to a 1-1 draw last weekend. Sitting 13th in the league table might provide Lecce with a false sense of security, which would be a mistake.
The Salentians languish only two points clear of the drop zone and can ill afford a poor result in Rome if they’re to stay away from danger. But that’s easier said than done.
Stadio Olimpico had been a fortress before Atalanta eked out a 1-0 victory here on the eve of September’s international break. Roma had gone unbeaten in their ten Serie A home matches preceding that defeat, including a pair of triumphs ‘to nil’ at the beginning of the season. Keen to reassemble their stronghold, the Giallorossi can draw confidence from their recent fortunes against Lecce.
Roma have come out victorious in eight of their last nine Serie A encounters against the Salentians (L1), averaging a staggering 2.4 goals per match. But they should be all too aware that a potential collapse against Lecce would condemn them to back-to-back home league defeats for the first time since January 2020.
Despite Mourinho’s reputation as a ‘park-the-bus’ manager, Roma haven’t kept a clean sheet across their last four Serie A outings. In stark contrast, the Giallorossi had managed four shutouts across their five previous league matches, suggesting they have the quality at the back but need to regroup.
Tipped for a season-long battle against relegation, Lecce will find comfort in knowing they claimed a 2-1 win at Salernitana on their most recent Serie A travel. After snapping a run of three winless away league matches at the start of the season (D1, L2), they will take the field in high spirits.
Interestingly, the Salentians won their first top-flight away meeting with Roma back in 1986 but have failed to repeat such a feat in each of the subsequent 15 such match-ups (D2, L13). Flying out of the traps could come in handy, yet Lecce’s cagey entries cannot inspire much confidence.
Coming into this matchday, Baroni’s men are the only side in Serie A yet to find the net inside the opening 30 minutes this season. But they have netted four goals in the 15 minutes before halftime, with only Napoli (6) beating that record.
Roma vs Lecce Potential Line-ups
Roma (3-4-2-1): Rui Patricio; Gianluca Mancini, Marash Kumbulla, Roger Ibanez; Nicola Zalewski, Nemanja Matic, Bryan Cristante, Leonardo Spinazzola; Paulo Dybala, Nicolo Zaniolo; Tammy Abraham.
Lecce (4-3-3): Wladimiro Falcone; Valentin Gendrey, Federico Baschirotto, Samuel Umtiti, Giuseppe Pezzella; Joan Gonzalez, Morten Hjulmand, Kristoffer Askildsen; Gabriel Strefezza, Assan Ceesay, Lameck Banda.