Roma – Chievo – Preview and Prediction
Two teams with much still to play for meet in the capital on Sunday afternoon as Roma host Chievo.
The hosts are after guaranteed Champions League group stage football which second place brings on the back of an unbeaten run of 15 Serie A games. That last defeat came at the hands of champions Juventus and is the only league defeat suffered since Luciano Spalletti returned in mid-January. Over the past 20 games only Juve have gained more points than the 45 earned by Roma, although their home form has slightly let them down over the past five games, draws with Bologna and Inter disappointing.
It would be remiss to talk about Roma and not mention that man Francesco Totti, the evergreen Mr Roma having had a direct influence on five of the Giallorossi’s last 11 goals, seven of those 11 having come following his introduction from the substitutes bench. Despite that influence it has clearly been a team effort, however, with those 11 goals coming from seven different players and Roma have been buoyed by the long-awaited return from injury of influential midfielder Kevin Strootman. With a place in Europe’s top competition guaranteed for next season and a two-point cushion to Napoli, Spalletti will be hoping the unbeaten run continues for the rest of the campaign.
Chievo, meanwhile, will be aiming to finish in their highest ever league position, previously seventh (albeit raised to fourth after the Calciopoli scandal) and can still harbour ambitious European dreams should they be successful. Another side in a good vein of form, the Flying Donkeys have suffered defeat just once in eight games, albeit surprisingly at the hands of relegation-threatened Atalanta. In a similarly coincidental story to that of Totti, Maran’s side’s recent success has owed much in part to the role played by a late-30s forward, in their case 37-year-old Sergio Pellissier. The veteran hitman, in to his 16th year in Verona, has bagged three goals in his past five appearances, mixing starts with talismanic appearances off the bench.
Another to have stepped up to the plate in recent weeks is Nicola Rigoni. Younger brother of Genoa’s Luca, Rigoni junior also has three goals in his last five appearances having added a keen eye for goal to his range of passing and box-to-box engine. Roma hold a significant advantage over Chievo in the head-to-head steaks, with 11 victories to three. However, some believe the longer an unbeaten run lasts the closest the end is.
Keep an eye on: Stephan El Shaarawy (Roma) — Scorer of seven goals in his 14 appearances, El Shaarawy has been a surprise hit in the capital since signing in January.
Form Guide: Roma (W W W D D) Chievo (D L W D W)
Last season: Roma 3-0 Chievo
Stat fact: Chievo have earned more points at home (28) than on their travels (21), yet since ninth in the away form table and just 12th in the home form table.
Roma (probable): Szczesny; Maicon, Manolas, Rudiger, Digne; Strootman, Nainggolan; Salah, Pjanic, Perotti; El Shaarawy
Chievo (probable): Bizzarri; Cacciatore, Gamberini, Cesar, Gobbi; Castro, Radovanovic, Hetemaj; Pepe; Floro Flores, Pellissier
Words: Dave Stacey