Serie A Gameweek 23 closes out at the Stadio Olimpico with a high-stakes encounter between top-four hopefuls Roma and relegation-threatened Cagliari. Monday’s clash in the Italian capital comes amidst renewed optimism around the Giallorossi camp following Jose Mourinho’s unceremonious sacking.
Plunged into mid-table following a disheartening 3-1 defeat at the hands of fierce rivals Milan a fortnight ago, Roma sealed Mourinho’s fate in Italy, casting the Europa Conference League-winning manager off in the aftermath. Appointed as an emergency solution, club legend Daniele De Rossi has embarked on his managerial career in style.
Roma squeaked past hot Hellas Verona 2-1 on De Rossi’s touchline debut before replicating that same scoreline in last weekend’s away encounter against basement boys Salernitana. While the ex-midfielder had to thank a relatively favorable schedule for painting his early managerial days with flying colors, a ‘new manager bounce’ is in full swing.
Buoyed by consecutive victories that fired them within striking distance of a coveted fourth place, Roma will be out to maintain their form resurgence at the expense of a troubled Cagliari side. Despite claiming over a quarter of their seasonal points across their last five Serie A outings (W2, D2, L1), Claudio Ranieri’s men come into this round on the back foot.
Last weekend’s 2-1 home loss to mid-table Torino condemned Cagliari to their second Serie A defeat in succession, keeping them firmly embedded in a dreaded relegation scrap. But while sources of confidence are few and far between for the Sardinians, they at least comment this matchday marginally outside the bottom three, courtesy of a superior goal difference to Verona.
Atalanta’s 3-1 demolition of Lazio on Sunday widened the gap between Roma and the last Champions League qualification spot to four points, increasing the significance of winning this match. De Rossi, who became the first Giallorossi manager to win his first two Serie A matches in charge since Rudi Garcia in 2013, would expect nothing less from his side.
The 40-year-old was part of the last Roma squad to have secured a top-four finish in Serie A back in 2017/18. He’s keen to do that as a manager, and there’s no better place to consolidate his bid than the Stadio Olimpico. Not only are Giallorossi unbeaten across their last 13 competitive home matches (W11, D2), but they’ve beaten Cagliari in six of their seven most recent top-flight H2Hs in the capital (D1).
Back-to-back defeats to Frosinone and Torino have tightened the noose around Ranieri’s neck ahead of this daunting-looking trip to Rome. It’s been over a decade since Cagliari last won a Serie A game against Roma at the Stadio Olimpico, running out 3-1 victors in 2011. But everything since has been doom and gloom, with the Sardinians suffering six defeats in their subsequent eight away H2Hs (D2).
Cagliari’s perennial struggles at this venue increase the likelihood of yet another underwhelming result on the road. Indeed, they’ve traveled poorly this season, as evidenced by a catastrophic run of eight losses from their last ten away league matches (D2). What’s worse, they’ve fired a blank in four of those ten fixtures, netting under 1.5 goals in five of the remaining six.
Roma are without long-term absentees Chris Smalling, Tammy Abraham, and Renato Sanchez. Paulo Dybala returned against Salernitana, leaving Leonardo Spinazzola as the only doubt. But Sardar Azmoun and Evan Ndicka are still away on international duty with Iran and Ivory Coast, respectively.
On the other hand, Cagliari can’t call upon the injured trident Marko Rog, Gaetano Oristanio, and Marco Mancosu. All are still on the sidelines with injuries, while Zito Luvumbo’s participation in the Africa Cup of Nations keeps him unavailable for selection.
Roma vs Cagliari Potential Lineups
Roma (4-3-2-1): Rui Patricio; Rick Karsdorp, Gianluca Mancini, Diego Llorente, Angelino; Lorenzo Pellegrini, Leandro Paredes, Bryan Cristante; Stephan El Shaarawy, Paulo Dybala; Romelu Lukaku.
Cagliari (3-5-1-1): Simone Scuffet; Mateusz Wieteska, Yerry Mina, Alberto Dossena; Gabriele Zappa, Nahitan Nandez, Antoine Makoumbou, Prati, Tommaso Augello; Nicolas Viola; Andrea Petagna.
Roma vs Cagliari Prediction
Roma must beat sub-par opposition to maintain a feel-good factor under De Rossi, with Cagliari’s travel sickness playing into their hands. We expect the hosts to do just that and stay in contention for a long-awaited top-four finish.
Prediction: Roma Win
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