The wait is over and the much anticipated season opener has arrived. I'm stoked, you're stoked, we're all stoked. The game against Palermo will take place Sunday evening at 8p in Sicily, so clear your calendar. Despite the Supercoppa victory, this is the big start and a very big test as to where the boys stand. Despite not gaining "elite" status as one of the other big boys to be avoided in the first three fixtures of the season (Roma along with Juve, Inter and Milan), Palermo is definitely only one notch below along with Fiorentina (Lazio is going to struggle for Europe next year, you heard it here first - or 131,978th). So it's a tough test no matter what the greased up Lega Calcio officials have to say. So, tough test? Tough preview. I still haven't decided how I'm going to work the season's previews, so enjoy the ride - it may get a bit bumpy at the start.
Roma: Curci, Panucci, Cicinho, Mexes, Aquilani, Vucinic, Totti, Taddei, Giuly, De Rossi, Alvarez, Tonetto, Julio Sergio, Rosi, Barusso, Doni, Brighi, Della Penna e Cassetti.
Injuries: Mancini, Ferrari, Pizarro, Pit, Juan, Andreolli, Esposito
• Della Panna is Claudio Della Penna, an 18 year old striker from the Primavera. Kid's a good prospect, but unless that much ballyhooed apocalypse arrives, he's not playing. What it does do, though, is speak volumes about Shabani Nonda. Either he's hurt and nobody mentioned it or he's back in Rome packing his bags as we speak. I'd tend to think the latter.
• Cicinho is probably playing, which is freakin' awesome. How much? Not a clue yet. I find it hard to believe he'd start after being with the squad all of 3 days, but I've seen stranger.
• Despite being on the bench last weekend, Mancini isn't in the squad. Whether it be injury or otherwise, I don't like this one bit.
• Simone Perrotta has obviously been left off due to his red card last week for two-footing Marco Materazzi in the chest...I mean for saying not nice things to the referee and hurting his feelings.
• Marco Andreolli is sitting at home nursing that injury he picked up in the Azzurrini's friendly on Tuesday. Roma's defensive depth chart has gone all heroin chic all of a sudden. It's damn thin back there.
The Probable Starting XIs:
Cassetti, Panucci, Mexes, Tonetto;
De Rossi, Aquilani;
Taddei, Giuly, Vucinic;
Bench: Curci, Cicinho, Rosi, Alvarez, Barusso, Brighi, Della Penna. (Feel free to go throw up now)
Same starting lineup that performed well last week. I suppose the most likely substitutions are Aleandro Rosi, Matteo Brighi and Cicinho, but who knows. Edgar Alvarez may be brought on late if Mirko and Rodrigo get tired.
Palermo (from palermomania.com - hey, it looks legit):
Zaccardo, Barzagli, Rinaudo, Pisano;
Jankovic, Simplicio, Guana, Bresciano;
Bench: Agliardi, Dellafiore, Capuano, Tedeschi, Migliaccio, Matteini, Cavani.
Fabrizio Miccoli, Amauri & Edison Cavani v Roma's Patchwork Back Four: It's not exactly a secret that Palermo's attacking options are pretty sick (although Cavani is better than Miccoli and he doesn't get nearly enough credit). However, Roma's less-than-ideal defense did pretty well against Zlatan & Suazo last week and this is comparatively easier. If Roma can perform as well as they did last week, Palermo will struggle to score a goal as Inter did.
Francesco Totti & Ludovic Giuly v Andrea Barzagli & Leandro Rinaudo: Two wily veterans v two youngsters. This is a far cry from Chivu & Materazzi of last week, two experienced and very good Serie A defenders. Barzagli may be Italia's best defender under 30, but he still isn't as consistent as desired. I expect Totti and Lulu Gulu to work off one-two's and exploit the two central defenders by finding space.
Ludovic Giuly v The Side of a Barn: Lulu got quite a few chances against a wide open goal mouth, but felt that it was so easy he couldn't possibly be that cruel to Inter in a preseason trophy game. Hopefully he starts rippling the back of the net with those sitters, because he should get a few more chances this week.
Doni v Doni: Self-explanatory.
Daniele De Rossi & Alberto Aquilani v Palermo: DDR & AA controlled the game with their midfield play last week and DDR's impact in his return couldn't have been more obvious unless he came through the TV and slapped us in the face. Palermo lost their captain, talisman and midfield force (stupidly) in Eugenio Corini, so it's safe to say the midfield is weaker - despite the talent of Bosko Jankovic. The presence of those two, as opposed to David Pizarro, will severely limit Palermo's ability to set up efficient counter attacks. If Roma's Dynamic Duo can perform similarly and fill in the holes on defense then Roma should be victorious. One of the biggest keys and least worries in the squad - it's good to be a Roma fan.
Roma should start off as they have throughout the preseason - fast, hard and efficient. The ball will run through the center of the pitch, out to the wings, back towards the The Roman Clusterfuck, rinse, wash, repeat. If Mirko can improve with every minute he sees at LW then he could be a difference maker in the game. The big impact will come from, who else, Il Capitano, in the middle of the pitch. With a relatively young back line it really looks like Roma has the strong advantage when in possession. I really feel like the experience and creativity of Totti, Giuly and Taddei will expose Palermo. However, the space in front of Doni will be just as adventurous with Palermo's 3-headed attacking monster. Should be fun to say the least.
TV/Streaming: On Fox Sports TV at 2:30p EST in the States. The streaming options are here.
Palermo Preview: From The Offside's resident Rosanero, Kevin, here.
Man of the Match: Lulu Gulu (You want to know how far I've come with my hatred for Lulu? That's how far. First game and he's my pick for MOTM. Pigs are flying over a frozen hell as we speak.)
Fill-in Player Who Starts Forcing a Fight For a Roma XI Spot: Legend in the Making.
First Cicinho Sighting: 67th minute.
Cards: 4 - 2 apiece, all yellow
Score: 2-1 Roma
Goals: Giuly (34'), Totti (57'), Amauri (72'). Seriously, one time this year I'm going to nail one of these. I have to.