The Women of AC Milan will take on AS Roma this Monday, January 20th, at 12:30 p.m. CEST (6:30 a.m. EST / 3:30 a.m. PST). Leaving aside the fact that this is a pretty terrible time and day for both teams to be playing (and guess whose fault that is?), the game will be crucial for both teams as they seek a place in the top two of the Serie A standings and more importantly, try to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
1.) What do you think of Roma’s season so far?
I’m pretty pleased. Starting off the season with fixtures against Milan and Fiorentina could have been disastrous, but they thankfully recovered from their three-nil blanking by Milan to defeat Fiorentina and are currently well ahead of last season’s pace. The league was always going to be a four-way race between Roma, Milan, Fiorentina and Juventus, and, well, that’s precisely what’s happening.
I’ve been most impressed by Roma’s newest signings. Players like Andrine Hegerberg, Lindsey Thomas, Andressa and Amalie Thestrup have transformed Roma into a more athletic and dynamic team; it’s been a joy to watch, we just have to hope the results keep coming.
2.) Do you see Roma eventually challenging Juventus for dominance in Serie A Femminile?
I honestly do. They sort of had to cobble together a squad last year but still managed to finish fourth, albeit a distant fourth, but over the summer they made a real investment in the squad, adding depth and quality and nearly every position. They have quality international players (Bartoli, Giugliano, Serturini, Hegerberg etc), an enormous cache of U-23 talent (Greggi, Bonfantini, Corrado, Swaby) and even the coach of the year.
The pieces are in place, and the only difference I can really see between the two clubs is that Roma are lacking someone like Cristiana Girelli; a homerun hitting striker who can single-handedly win matches.
So far, Roma haven’t come close to beating Juventus and I’m afraid the longer things stay that way, the more likely a mental block will build up (like on the men’s side), but if things fall in place and Roma can finish in second place, qualify for the Champions League and hopefully attract more talent, then, yes, I think the league will be there for the taking next season.
3.) What are Roma’s strengths and weaknesses, and how do you think they could factor in the game against Milan?
Well, given that it was the first match of the year, it’s hard to take lessons from their first fixture. Roma has gelled since then and I think the emergence of Hegerberg, Giugliano, Thomas, and Andressa should give them a better chance on Monday than they had back in round one.
The real strength of this team is their speed and agility. Agnese Bonfantini, Annamaria Serturini and Lindsey Thomas will test Milan’s full-backs with their dizzying array of runs, while Andressa and Giugliano will supplant that with their passes into the final third.
They don’t have any glaring weaknesses, but they can be a bit slow to start, particularly against the top sides, so if they get pegged back early on they could be in trouble.
4.) What do you think of the growth of women’s football in Italy so far, and what more needs to be done to help the movement grow?
Well, I was hardly an expert on the subject a mere 18 months ago, so I think the fact that we’re even sitting here doing this speaks to the growth of women’s football in Italy. From a Roma perspective, it was simply having a team that pulled me in last year, but there’s no denying the impact of the 2019 World Cup. Not only did Italy play well, but they were entertaining and engaging; it was hard not to become enamored with that team.
I think the next step requires serious and legitimate financial investment at the club level. We’ve discussed this several times over the past few months, but it will be impossible for Serie A to grow and Italy to compete on the global stage if the women aren’t treated and compensated like the professional athletes they are—anything short of that will doom the league and the movement.
Between players like Girelli, Giugliano, Barbara Bonansea, Laura Giuliani, Alia Guagni, Valentina Giacinti and Elisa Bartoli, Italy has several world-class players who can help grow the game on the peninsula, but if they’re not afforded the working conditions/respect/pay they deserve, I’m not confident they’ll continue to resist the calls from Spain, France, and England, and all this progress will be squandered.
5.) Do you have a favorite player from Milan? Both for the men and the women.
Well, I absolutely love Valentina Giacinti and think she would well and truly put Roma over the top, but I can’t say there are any players on the men’s side I admire. Roma fans the world over loathe Alessio Romagnoli and we’re all dreading our seemingly inevitable acquisition of Suso.
I’ll take Giacinti every day of the week.
6.) Annamaria Serturini is absolutely wonderful now isn’t she?
She is! It’s amazing how much speed and power she packs into such a small package. I was overjoyed that she made the national team last summer; it was a well-earned reward following a spectacular season. She is Roma’s best and most consistent attacking threat, she can beat you off the dribble just as easily as she can unleash a 20-yard screamer. I’m afraid we’ve overlooked her a bit this season, but she’s a superstar in the making.
7.) Finally, what are your predictions for the game against Milan?
This is tough. I obviously want to predict a rousing Roma victory, but given the history between the two clubs, I’m sensing a draw. I just can’t imagine Milan losing three out of four matches.
I’ll say a 2-2 draw, with goals from Andressa, Thomas and a Giacinti brace.