For the second straight season, Juventus and Roma enter with the same kind of situations in the league table. In the Italian capital, Rudi Garcia's squad is trying to catch the team in front of them. And that team just happens to be Juventus, who enter the 2015-16 season gunning for a fifth straight Serie A title.
I bring this up because this Sunday is the first Juventus-Roma showdown of the season, with the second round of games in Italy's top flight giving one heck of an early-season main event.
And seeing as we've done the whole exchange questions thing once before — and hopefully bring a couple of laughs along the way — I decided to keep with tradition and ask the leader of SB Nation's Roma blog about his favorite team. Let's hear when Mr. Bren has to say. He does know a thing or two about Roma, methinks.
BWRAO: Roma played out a 1-1 draw against Hellas Verona on the opening day of the season. Obviously it's extremely early and things can change, but what makes you think that kind of start isn't just an extension of the second half of last season?
CdT: You've just touched on our biggest fears, Danny. Well done. There is a sizable chunk of the fanbase that fears this is simply the same story with different characters, with Mohamed Salah and Edin Dzeko representing minor upgrades on Iturbe and Mattia Destro, respectively, while our defense is notably thinner, so, as I said, you've touched a nerve with this question.
From Chiesa Di Totti
From Chiesa Di Totti
Having said that, just watching Dzeko, whether the run of play was heading his way or not, you could tell something was different; the attack has some teeth and an actual endpoint this season, while Salah is a more well-rounded player at this point that Iturbe. But if we're being honest, given the run of draws Roma had in 2015, we're all very concerned that Garcia's stilted, wing oriented tactics will rear their ugly head again.
BWRAO: Going off that, do you think Rudi Garcia has learned from what went so incredibly wrong for Roma last season?
CdT: I'm not certain what the BWRAO policy is on cursing, so I'll just say I flipping hope so. 2013-2014 was such a revelation, everything worked and everything came so easily, but last season was the reverse; we had to scratch and claw just to manage draws, so we're not quite sure where Garcia stands. Garcia catches a lot — and I mean a lot — of flack around CDT, but he is a professional, title winning manager, so the more level headed among us (which doesn't always include me) have faith that he's done his due diligence this season to make the necessary tactical corrections to avoid a repeat of last spring, while the naysayers believe he's a one-trick pony, that one trick being give the ball Gervinho, close your eyes and pray.
BWRAO: Of all the new players Juventus has signed this summer, who do you think is the one that Roma fans are fearing the most entering the weekend?
CdT: Hmm, I suppose the easy answer is Paulo Dybala, simply because we were connected to him ever so briefly, plus, you know, he's really good. Roma has Leandro Castan returning from BRAIN SURGERY, a young and rash Kostas Manolas, a winger playing rightback (Florenzi) and new signing Lucas Digne at leftback, so our defense gives many of us nightmares. So, take your pick: Dybala or Mandzukic could give us fits.
BWRAO: Over at CdT, you guys spent about five million hours covering the Edin Dzeko move to Roma. Now that he's actually on your team, how do you think he can grow into the squad?
CdT: I'm assuming you're referring to our four-month long #DareToDzeko campaign. As I mentioned earlier, and though it was just one match, you could tell something was different out there; Dzeko is a more complete and more clinical striker than Roma's had in ages, even when the ball wasn't coming his way, he was impacting the play on the pitch. Certainly there will be an adjustment, but I think he realizes this is his best last chance at becoming a household name, so to speak. If we wants to be known as one of the game's best forwards, the recipe is here; between Miralem Pjanic and Roma's wingplay, there will be no shortage of chances for Dzeko this season; the offense is essentially built around him, so we're expecting some pretty large returns
BWRAO: What will Roma have to do to get a win against Juventus on Sunday?
CdT: Well, they have to get Dzeko some clear cut chances for starters and they have to be more disciplined and organized at the back. They handled Luca Toni pretty well last week, but they just settled for shots from distance and made a couple defensive errors that ultimately cost them the match. You can't do those sort of things against Juve and even hope for a draw, so Roma just needs to execute and be more proficient in their chances.