Lecce Vs. AS Roma: Preview, Giallorossi Still Chasing UEFA Champions League Football

It's incredible to think that AS Roma, a club in poor form that recently fired their manager, is still in contention for the UEFA Champions League. Lazio don't appear to be up for the long-term fight and Juventus are in free fall mode. Roma have plenty of problems, but fourth place is there for the taking. 

Their opponent on Friday is a Lecce side that currently sits above the drop zone, but is certainly in danger of going down. The team directly below them, Parma, is seemingly too talented to go down while Cesena and Brescia seem to be on Lecce's level. They're unlikely to see a game against Roma as one where they need to win, but with the Giallorossi's erratic nature, nothing is ever certain.

The first match between these two sides in Serie A featured a dominating performance from Roma, though a look at the box score doesn't reveal this. Francesco Totti was sent off in that fixture, and it took Roma until the 62nd minute to score their first goal in that 2-0 victory. Roma should face a slightly tougher test on Friday on the road, but it's difficult to look back at that game and draw any conclusions about what might happen in this match.

The most obvious reason for that is the coaching change that just took place in Rome. Claudio Ranieri was fired after his side turned a 3-0 lead into a 4-3 loss against Genoa. That loss came shortly after an embarrassing home loss to Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Champions League that put Ranieri's long term future in doubt. 

Caretaker manager and club legend Vincenzo Montello has yet to make wholesale changes with the team's tactics and selection, preferring to leave things as they were for the time being, for the most part. He hasn't found a place for Jeremy Menez in his team in either of his two matches in charge, while it seems like David Pizzaro could come back into an important role with the club. It shouldn't come as too shocking that wholesale tactical changes haven't been made, because there never really was an inherent tactical flaw. Roma's problems appear to stem more from attitude and possibly team selection than tactics.

The incredible (and scary) thing about Lecce is that, despite their current 16th place standing, most of their impact players appear to be over-achieving. No player has more than five goals, but three of Lecce's leading scorers, David Di Michele, Daniele Corvia, and Ruben Olivera are either performing at or above levels that could have been reasonably expected. Gianni Munari and Ignacio Piatti are in this same boat in the midfield.

On the other end of the field, Lecce's defense is the worst in Serie A. A look at the talent along their back line doesn't unearth any abnormalities; Lecce's defense is as bad as it's supposed to be. So, basically, if the (below average) offense regresses to the mean, Lecce are worse than their 16th place standing and -18 goal differential. Ouch.

Because of this, it's pretty hard to predict anything but a Roma victory, and without a whole lot of struggle. Still, Roma are a very erratic team at the moment, and that has to be taken into account. So, expect a Roma victory, but prepare yourself for the shock of a spectacular meltdown. 

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