Saturday, Roma will play a match that looks almost certain to be a considerable loss. Juventus have demolished the capital club at least once a season the past few years - it started with Diego's double that signaled the end of Luciano Spalletti's reign, continuing to the 4-1 embarrassment at Juventus Stadium in September, when three goals were conceded by Zdenek Zeman's men within the first 20 minutes.
Thus a loss is certainly on the cards. Which means, for Roma, the match will probably end as a draw; no side underperforms against small sides and then overperforms when no expectations are upon them like this one.
Regardless of the final result, no statistic can undermine the fact that this season has been a failure – and a depressing one at that. Instead of taking what worked from last season and improving it, a better squad has begotten worse results. After 24 rounds last season, Roma were in fifth with 38 points, six points off of the third and final Champions League place. This season they have 34 points, lie ninth, and are 10 off a CL spot.
The worrying trend is the top teams in Serie A have grown stronger – Napoli have 13 points more than at this stage last season, Lazio 2, Juventus 5, Inter 7 – but Roma have regressed.
None of this is really news. Anyone who has seen a minute of a Roma match this year knows the Zdenek Zeman experiment never took off. Aurelio Andreazzoli’s reign as a mere caretaker is meant to stabilize, and after just one match, there is no true indication of how well he will perform.
Vincenzo Montella was the last caretaker appointed to guide Roma and was sent off in the summer after failing to reach a Champions League places. Of course, he has proven himself to be a very adept coach since - Fiorentina have 11 more points than at this time last season despite a terrible run of form in 2013.
But Andreazzoli's task seems more daunting and more impossible. The hope of the new project has transformed from a beacon of excitement to a crushing weight upon the whole club, with players, directors, coaches and fans struggling in the twilight underneath, wondering when the bright dawn that seemed just over the horizon will return.
It does not seem it will be anytime soon. Andreazzoli’s 3-5-2 was a noble attempt to reverse the atrophy within but the result remained frustrating. Daniele De Rossi, Roma’s best defensive midfielder, and Maarten Stekelenburg, the side’s best goalie, both started; yet, not only were three goals conceded in Sunday's loss at Sampdoria, but the duo had a prominent role in at least two of them.
There are no easy fixes for this side. There really isn't an explanation, either. On paper, this squad is excellently constructed, but on the pitch, plays like peanut brittle tastes: delicious, but dangerously thin.
What the side truly needs is not a tactician: a coach who will merely play his best players in their preferred positions should suffice. Instead, this side will only reach its true potential once a motivator comes in. A man who can inspire the team to perform to the level they should be capable; an ignition for the very soul for the club itself, igniting the fire inside and turning mental weakness into unbreakable fortitude.
That’s what Jose Mourinho does to his sides that make them so fearsome; it’s what Antonio Conte has done to Juventus to return them to their former glory; none other than the same mentality which Sir Alex Ferguson instills into his men that sees them consistently scrape points and comebacks even on days when Manchester United play well below their potential.
Luis Enrique strove to model his side after Pep Guardiola's Barcelona but it is Lionel Messi's bitter rivals that Roma truly need to replicate.
Until then, the club are a spaceship without boosters: containing all the necessary equipment to sail into orbit but inexplicably lacking the capacity to takeoff.