For short-handed Roma, it's now you Siena, now you don’t

Posted by Julian De Martinis

Gabriele Maltinti/Getty ImagesSunday, Roma will be without Mattia Destro, who had a brace against his former team in a December victory at Siena.

For the second weekend in a row, Roma take on a relegation candidate, a team that’s enamored with the number one. They're so poor that they’ve collected less than one point per match, have scored fewer than one goal per match, and lie just one spot above the relegation zone.

This remains nevertheless a dangerous game: fighting for survival is often a better motive to win than fighting for a European place, and a loss on Sunday could conceivably see them fall into the bottom three.

Oh, and they’re playing Roma.

Since February, Siena have been quite a decent side, going on non-losing streaks twice. The first run was actually quite impressive by nearly any team's standards: they comprehensively defeated 3-1 Inter in week 23 at home, went away to Bologna the following week and drew 1-1, then returned home to defeat Lazio, 3-0.

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The following week, their balloon was popped when Juventus crushed them 3-0; a further defeat against Atalanta appeared to have them well on the road back to relegation, but they bounced back with another five-game unbeaten streak. They beat Palermo and Pescara, earning vital points against fellow relegation candidates, and drew against Siena, Genoa and Parma in between.

They lost again last week at home against Chievo after Sergio Pellissier’s strike was enough to see the away side victorious.

In short, then: they’re the kind of team that can pull off upsets, especially against a Roma side who will be missing a few key players. Mattia Destro will miss the match due to suspension for yellow-card accumulation, Marquinhos is out with inflammation in both of his knees, and Alessandro Florenzi had a gastrointestinal problem Friday that prevented him from training.

All of these absences will be felt; Destro has been in splendid form recently and scored twice against his former side earlier this season in Roma's 3-1 win at Siena in December and Marquinhos may have cooled off somewhat, but still remains the side’s best defender, though Florenzi may recover in time to start.

Initial reports suggest Aurelio Andreazzoli will line up in a 4-2-3-1 with Erik Lamela, Francesco Totti and Florenzi (if available) playing behind Pablo Osvaldo. Miralem Pjanic and Daniele De Rossi will anchor the midfield in front of Vasilis Torosidis, Nicolas Burdisso, Leandro Castan and Federico Balzaretti (Marquinho will miss the match with injury, as well). Maarten Stekelenburg will take his usual place in goal, although Ivan Piris may regain a full-back position at the cost of Torosidis.

Roma have not lost at home since Feb. 1 to Cagliari (2-4), but they have not won at home in two matches, either. Since Serie A's winter break, Roma have won three, drawn three, and lost once at home; they’ve never failed to find the net but only earned clean sheets twice in seven matches.

Recent form with Siena is somewhat encouraging: of the last six meetings, Roma have only lost once, defeating the Bianconeri four times, and shared the spoils once.

Before last week’s match against Pescara, it was De Rossi who said Roma simply needed to earn six points from their following two games. Instead, four will have to suffice; failing to beat Siena would not only be another embarrassing result but certainly an indication that Andreazzoli does not have what it takes to be this side’s coach next season.

Once again, Roma's biggest enemy is not the opponent, but themselves. Failing to play at their best will be very dangerous against a Siena side who love nothing more than to take scalps from top teams. However, should Roma play as they're capable of, this could be one of the easiest remaining games this season, with Napoli and tricky away fixtures against Milan and Fiorentina beckoning yet.

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