Serie A Preview, Potential Lineups & Prediction –
Stadio Via del Mare is the venue as bottom-half Lecce and top-four hopefuls Roma go head-to-head in a lopsided Serie A showdown on Saturday evening. While the hosts remain stuck in the lower reaches, the visitors have taken a massive stride toward claiming a first top-four finish since 2017/18.
Serie A basement boys Cremonese fell victim to Lecce’s bid to arrest an underwhelming four-game winless run last weekend (D2, L2). Second-half goals from Federico Baschirotto and Gabriel Strefezza fired the Salentini to a landslide 2-0 victory in Cremona, tucking them into mid-table comforts.
Despite Lecce’s unconvincing start to the new calendar year, they’re still relatively safe from a drop-zone drama. Marco Baroni’s men boast a healthy nine-point lead on 18th-placed Hellas Verona at the start of this round. But the margin may grow thin by the end of this matchday if they fail to pick up points here and Verona topple Salernitana at home on Monday.
In the meantime, visiting Roma bounced back from a 2-1 defeat at league leaders Napoli with a 2-0 home win over Empoli last Saturday. Roger Ibanez and Tammy Abraham scored within the opening six minutes of play at the Stadio Olimpico to secure a comfortable win and the Giallorossi’s progression up the ladder.
Roma took advantage of Atalanta, Milan, and Lazio all dropping points in the previous round to move into third. However, only two points separate Jose Mourinho’s team from the sixth-placed Rossoneri at the beginning of this round, meaning there’s no room for complacency.
Enthusiasm is streaming through the hosts’ veins, as a 23-point tally from 21 Serie A matches stands as Lecce’s best haul of points at this stage of a top-flight season since 2004/05. Roma’s arrival at Via del Mare may not necessarily dampen the spirits in Baroni’s corner, with his men going unbeaten in three of their four home games against current top-six sides (W2, D1).
Ironically, though, less than 50% of Lecce’s points total this season has come at home turf (11/23). That’s a reason for concern, especially considering they’ve only won two of their 33 encounters against Roma in Serie A (D8, L23), most recently beating them 4-2 at home in 2012.
Player to Watch: Gabriel Strefezza
All eyes will be on Lecce’s top-goalscorer Gabriel Strefezza. The in-demand forward has tallied seven goals in Serie A this season, getting on the scoresheet in his last two league appearances.
Roma boss Mourinho has been Lecce’s kryptonite, having won all three of his personal H2Hs against the Salentini in Serie A as a manager. The Special One must be lining up another success, aware of the fact the Giallorossi have scored in each of their last 19 league clashes against Lecce, averaging 2.4 goals per game.
Indeed, you’d need to go back to 2000 for Roma’s last scoring blank against this opposition in top-flight action. Maintaning their free-scoring form against Lecce may not be enough to earn them three points, with Mourinho’s men going winless in three of their last four away league outings (D2, L1).
Player to Watch: Paulo Dybala
Marquee forward Paulo Dybala cannot stop scoring against Lecce. The Argentine has found the net in all three personal H2Hs against the Salentini, including a match-winning penalty in the reverse fixture at the Stadio Olimpico.
Wolfsburg loanee Marin Pongracic is not in contention for the matchday squad after picking up an injury. But Lecce should be free of further injury concerns as Assan Ceesay and Youssef Maleh are on the verge of recuperating from minor fitness issues.
On the other hand, this fixture will come too soon for long-term absentee Georginio Wijnaldum, but Leonardo Spinazzola may still recover in time to at least make the bench. Luckily for Mourinho, all of his headline performers are fit and ready.
Lecce vs Roma Potential Lineups
Lecce (4-3-3): Wladimiro Falcone; Valentin Gendrey, Federico Baschirotto, Samuel Umtiti, Giuseppe Pezzella; Alexis Blin, Morten Hjulmand, Joan Gonzalez; Gabriel Strefezza, Lorenzo Colombo, Federico Di Francesco.
Roma (3-4-2-1): Rui Patricio; Gianluca Mancini, Chris Smalling, Roger Ibanez; Nicola Zalewski, Bryan Cristante, Nemanja Matic, Stephan El Shaarawy; Lorenzo Pellegrini, Paulo Dybala; Tammy Abraham.
Lecce vs Roma Prediction
Since only three teams have taken three points away from Via del Mare, Roma’s win is anything but a foregone conclusion, irrespective of the odds.
No strangers to defying expectations, Lecce already held reigning champions Milan to an action-packed 2-2 draw in January, so they deserve the benefit of the doubt.
We wouldn’t be shocked to see the hosts avoid defeat against more heavily fancied rivals again.
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