The start of the season was meant to bring great things for Roma. Antonio Conte had left Juventus in the aftermath of the Old Lady’s third consecutive league triumph, and the arrivals of Juan Iturbe, Ashley Cole and Kostas Manolas had the excitement tingling around the capital.
Yet after a stunning start to the season their chances of dethroning Juventus at the summit are looking slimmer by the week. Saturday’s draw against Palermo delivered yet another knock to their ambitions, and Rudi Garcia may be left to rue such misfortune come the end of the season in May.
Roma’s start to the season was emphatic. After winning their first 10 league games at the start of last season, Garcia was hoping for a similarly fast start this time around. And they did not disappoint.
Last season’s agony at amassing their highest-ever points tally only to fall well short of a first Scudetto since 2001 seemed to spur them on, with the club earning a maximum 15 points from their first five games to match Juventus stride for stride at the top of the table.
It started with a victory over Vincenzo Montella’s Fiorentina, with wins over Empoli, Cagliari, Parma and Verona daring the fans to dream.
Even after a controversial defeat to their title rivals back in October they continued to maintain the momentum, but their form has begun to wane since last month and the resumption of the competition since the winter break has set them back in the race for the title.
Saturday’s result against Palermo was the side’s second draw in less than a week, with the ever-green Francesco Totti at the double to rescue a point against Lazio in the capital derby last Sunday.
His brace came after Stefano Mauri and Felipe Anderson had the hosts’ cruising to victory and consigning Garcia’s men to a third defeat of the season, but Totti’s prowess saw them keep pace with Juventus at the summit.
Prior to that had been a difficult December, with a 2-2 draw against Sassuolo a particular low given their otherwise impressive record on home soil.
A goalless draw against AC Milan would be, on paper at least, a positive result. But again that it came at the Stadio Olympico represented two points dropped rather than one point earned.
Their efforts to end their wait for the Scudetto are not quite over yet, but the way Juventus steamrolled to the title last season hints that further heartbreak may lie in wait as the season progresses.
The Old Lady face Verona in Turin on Sunday evening, with a five-point lead at stake.
Much may depend on when the pair lock horns in March, in a game that could determine where bragging rights lie once the season ends.