Sleepy stalemate keeps Juventus' Serie A lead over Roma intact
ROME -- Three quick thoughts from Roma's 1-1 draw with Juventus at the Stadio Olimpico on Monday night.
1. Drab draw
While the first meeting between the two sides in Serie A this season was a spectacular affair, even without the controversies and conspiracies, Monday night's meeting miserably failed to hit the spot before a red card for Vasileios Torosidis brought some life to proceedings.
Even lovers of tactics would have been left disappointed because, quite frankly, there was little of that either. Italy's two strongest teams, based on the current classification and recent seasons, merely cancelled each other out in a crowded midfield. It was a disjointed game in which the repeated shrill of the referee's whistle would have had any misophonia sufferer in a burning rage.
With such congestion in midfield and a mutual attitude of "we attack, you defend; you attack, we defend," no topos could be elaborated. The most inventive move of the night came from Rudy Garcia, switching Gervinho over to the left and Francesco Totti to the right. It did not confuse anybody, apart from perhaps the two Roma forwards.
The game lacked any form of construction or creativity; there was no flow or fluidity. It just got too crowded in a midfield lacking two protagonists with a capital P -- Pirlo and Pogba. Juve did not try to mask that their midfield was weaker without the two catalysts of their game. It was not until they received a helping hand from Torosidis in the 63rd minute that they finally sensed and seized an opportunity having been uncharacteristically defensive up to then.
Carlos Tevez whipped in the resulting free kick after the Greek defender was dismissed, and it was -- finally -- game on.
While the Olimpico erupted when Seydou Keita brought Roma level with 12 minutes remaining, and while it was hard to tell which side was playing with only 10 men as only Roma wanted to win this game, it will nonetheless not go down as a classic. The end result is one the Roma fans have seen a little too much of this season, and the main reason these two sides, who could not be separated on Monday night, have a gulf between them after 25 rounds of the Serie A season.
2. Roma's drawing disease
As Daniele De Rossi said on the eve of the game, Roma's problem was not that controversial defeat to the Bianconeri in Turin, but a run of draws the local media have labelled Pareggite, a pun on the Italian word for a draw: pareggio. Their "drawitis" continued on Monday night with their ninth in their last 12 Serie A matches. Not only has that enabled Juventus to open up a nine-point cushion at the top of the table, it has also allowed Napoli, Lazio and Fiorentina to move uncomfortably close to what at one stage seemed a guaranteed berth in the UEFA Champions League next season.
Even though Roma have not lost a league game since Nov. 1, when they were defeated 2-0 in Naples, they have not won many either. Their last victory at the Stadio Olimpico was the 4-2 triumph over Inter Milan on Nov. 30, hence the reason Rudi Garcia is now more concerned with what is going on over his shoulder than what's ahead of them.
Roma have at least played Fiorentina home and away, and their advantage in that head-to-head record is worth an extra point over the Viola. They host Napoli on Easter Saturday, when they need to better the 2-0 result from the San Paolo to lead that particular head-to-head, while the Rome derby -- which at this stage could potentially decide between a place in the Champions League or the Europa League, or even between a place in Europe or out of it -- will be staged on the penultimate weekend of the season, with Lazio the nominal hosts.
By then, Roma will hope to have passed by a doctor and found a cure for their ailment before it is too late.
3. Serie A and Serie A2
With Roma and Juventus' draw in the Italian capital on Monday night, a clear division remains in Serie A heading into the last 13 games of the season. While Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri rightly calculated that 39 points are still up for grabs -- and his side's nine-point advantage therefore means it will be another six weeks at the very least before they are able to celebrate a fourth straight Scudetto -- the race for the title is more or less over. The Bianconeri have dropped just 15 points in 25 games, and it is hard to imagine them fluffing their lines at the curtain call. Serie A therefore appears to belong to the Old Lady once again, with Serie A2 holding the real excitement in Italy this season.
Monday's draw means Roma are just four points ahead of Napoli, the side they host on Easter Saturday in what is looking an increasingly mouth-watering encounter at the Stadio Olimpico. Roma have between now and then to establish a big enough advantage not to risk falling behind Rafael Benitez's men as the Giallorossi's season starts to look compromised after their latest disappointing result at home. That may become more challenging even without them kicking a ball.
Parma's destiny may have a major influence on which clubs join Juve in the Champions League next season. Parma picked up a draw with Roma in one of their few games in the second half of the season, but should they be declared bankrupt, all of their remaining fixtures -- and exclusively those -- would be forfeited. Napoli, Fiorentina, Lazio and even the longer shots Inter Milan, Sampdoria and Genoa all stand to gain three points on the Giallorossi without even taking to the field, each receiving 3-0 wins.
Were Parma's imminent bankruptcy and exclusion from the remainder of the season to be sanctioned right now, it would make for particularly interesting reading at the top of the table. Napoli would move to just a point behind Roma, Lazio two further behind with Fiorentina another point back. Sampdoria and Genoa would both have a realistic chance of Champions League qualification, and even Inter could be in with a shout.
Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.