Roma and 1-0 king Mourinho to test title credentials at Juventus

·5-min read

Injuries may have dampened Roma's early season optimism, but results have done the opposite.

An impressive transfer window has had Giallorossi supporters dreaming of the Scudetto, even if Jose Mourinho protested on the eve of the campaign "only Sampdoria and Lecce spent less than us".

That was a little disingenuous – very out of character for Mourinho – for his immediate concern would have been how to fit free agents Nemanja Matic and Paulo Dybala and loan signing Georginio Wijnaldum into the same XI as Bryan Cristante, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Tammy Abraham and Nicolo Zaniolo.

While injuries to Wijnaldum and Zaniolo seemingly solved that particular problem in unsatisfactory fashion, Roma have still taken six points from six thanks to a pair of 1-0 wins over Salernitana and Cremonese.

Mourinho's men enter matchweek three level on points with Napoli and Inter at the top of the Serie A table, yet that perfect start is about to be put to the test.

Roma next visit Juventus, a side who have done more than most to extend their championship drought to 21 years.

Bossed by the Bianconeri

Roma finished second to Juve in 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2016-17 as the Bianconeri won nine straight Scudetti, and the Giallorossi lost in Turin in the first eight of those seasons.

That run of away defeats in this fixture ended with a 3-1 victory in August 2020, yet Juve had clinched the title yet again a week earlier. They have since beaten Roma twice more at home without conceding, too.

Juventus 1-0 Roma
Juventus 1-0 Roma

The most recent of those losses for Roma came under Mourinho last term, but he had at least won on his previous trip to the Allianz Stadium as a coach, masterminding Manchester United's dramatic late turnaround in a 2-1 Champions League victory in November 2018.

Admittedly, two visits as Inter coach returned only a point.

A result for Roma on Saturday would certainly send a message to the rest of Serie A, but it is not Juve alone against whom they have a point to prove.

Mourinho's side failed to record a single point home or away against the big three of Milan, Inter and Juve last season, shipping a combined 16 goals across six defeats.

Indeed, Roma earned twice as many points against bottom-half opposition (42) as against their top-10 rivals (21) in 2021-22.

Victories over one side who narrowly avoided relegation and another who have just been promoted might therefore count for little at this stage, even if the nature of the wins were reminiscent of Mourinho title-winning campaigns of yore.

Roma's 'championship form'

"How many times have I said to you about 1-0?" Alex Ferguson, the great former United manager, asked reporters in 2012. "What does it mean? It means championship form."

And since Mourinho first entered Europe's top five leagues with Chelsea in 2004, he has been the king of the 1-0.

Roma's latest victory secured that status, with that Mourinho's 73rd one-goal success across the five leagues, nudging him one clear of second-placed Carlo Ancelotti (72) since 2004-05.

It should come as no surprise then, according to Ferguson's outlook, that Mourinho has won six league titles in that time, second only to Pep Guardiola's 10.

The first of these championships with Chelsea had Mourinho oversee a remarkable 11 1-0 wins in 2004-05 – a massive career high.

In fact, since Mourinho moved into the top five leagues, only Elie Baup's Marseille in 2012-13 have enjoyed more 1-0 wins in a single season (12).

And the Portuguese has clearly rediscovered his knack for eking out results, recording eight 1-0 victories since being appointed Roma coach. That's the most in Serie A and the second-most in Europe, behind Real Sociedad (nine).

Second in Italy over this period, with seven, are Milan, the champions.

Chasing a rare result

That dominant debut season at Chelsea started with a pair of 1-0 wins, as did the successful title defence, but Mourinho is yet kick off a campaign with three in a row.

Past results suggest Roma have their work cut out to deliver for their coach this weekend, too.

Only twice in Serie A history have they won 1-0 away at Juventus, last doing so in 1981. They have not even kept a clean sheet in Turin in this fixture since 2001, when they last visited as defending champions.

Yet Roma can head into this game full of confidence, for their early wins have not been the grinds the scorelines have suggested.

The Giallorossi account for two of the three greatest expected goals underperformances of the Serie A season so far, tallying 2.8 xG against Cremonese and 2.4 against Salernitana.

The top two individuals in terms of underperformance are Roma pair Dybala (1.3 xG, no goals) and Abraham (1.3 xG, no goals), but surely these exciting attacking talents have to click in front of goal sooner rather than later.

Paulo Dybala
Paulo Dybala

Dybala, who scored three goals in nine Serie A games for Juve against Roma, will be especially keen to get back on the scoresheet.

Should he do so and should Roma win – perhaps 1-0 – then Mourinho might again be at the forefront of a Scudetto race, with or without injuries, with or without significant investment.