Roma v Serie B Champs: Back To The Grind

romajuve.jpgBring On The Cheaters

Those cheatin' bastards make their way back to the Olimpico, fresh of a 1-0 loss to Udinese at home (I'm cryin' inside - really, I am) and the loss of about half their roster to injury and Alfa Romeos. Roma? Just the opposite, coming off a commanding 2-0 victory against Dynamo Kyiv and finally getting most of their squad back from the physio's table at Trigoria. Last year the teams....oh, wait, they didn't play last year, because Juventus was in Serie B for fixing games. How sad. And as far as, well, the entire world is concerned, friendlies don't matter. In case it wasn't obvious yet, they aren't exactly an accurate barometer for future form or success.

So, the Roman boys have been earning their fair share of praise from about half the managers in Europe as one of the best teams - if not The Best - in the world at the moment. I'm not ready to start calling them the reincarnation of Milan's Invincibles, but they're good. Damn good, in fact. The team has taken the stance that it's still early, that they won't let it get to their heads and that they certainly haven't wrapped up the Scudetto yet. Always good, it's best not to get too cocky early; but one would hope behind those veiled statements is enough confidence to believe they are no lesser than Milan or Inter or Juventus, and play accordingly. The next two weeks will go a long way in determining such.

The Standings

1. Roma 3-0-0 9pts (+7)
2. Inter 2-0-1 7pts (+4)
3. Napoli 2-1-0 6pts (+5)
4. Juventus 2-1-0 6pts (+4)
5. Milan 1-0-2 5pts (+3)
6. Fiorentina 1-0-2 5pts (+2)

Regardless of what Juventus fans say, they'll still have to beat Roma by a couple goals to jump into first place, and then hope that Inter draws or loses...and that Napoli doesn't perform a similar trick against Empoli. So you can take that "win and we're top of the table" bullshit and stick it up your zebra-laced asses. Politely, of course.

The Squads


Roma:
Keeps: Doni, Curci, J. Sergio D-Fence: Philou, J-Smooth (Juan), Cicinho, Tonetto, Panucci, Ferrari, Antunes, Cassetti Mids: King Alberto, DDR, Pizarro, Barusso, Brighi, Lulu Gulu, Espo (!), Mancini, Taddei, Perrotta Up Top: Il Capitano, Vucigol. No surprises.

Juve:
Portieri: Gianluigi Buffon, Jess Vanstrattan, Cristiano Novembre. Difensori: Alessandro Birindelli, Giorgio Chiellini, Andrade, Domenico Criscito, Zdenek Grygera, Cristian Molinaro, Nicola Legrottaglie. Centrocampisti: Sergio Almiron, Cristiano Zanetti, Hasan Salihamidzic, Pavel Nedved, Antonio Nocerino, Ruben Olivera, Tiago. Attaccanti: Vincenzo Iaquinta, Alessandro Del Piero, David Trezeguet, Raffaele Palladino.

The Probable XIs


Roma:
Spaletti has made no bones about it, he wants to win this game, so you can be assured he will be fielding his strongest XI, aside from maybe a couple of positions.

Doni;
Cassetti, Mexes, Juan, Tonetto;
De Rossi, Aquilani;
Taddei, Perrotta, Mancini;
Totti.

Juventus:

Gigi;
Birindelli, Andrade, Criscito, Chiellini;
Salihamidzic, Almiron, Zanetti, Nedved;
Del Piero, Trezeguet.

Key Injuries

Roma: Surprisingly at this point the only two injuries to speak of are Christian Panucci and Marco Andreolli, after what seems like half the team was injured only a few weeks ago. Old Man River is still out. Due to recent form, one would think Marco Cassetti will start, as he played a hell of a game on Wednesday, so maybe Spalletti would like to ride his wave as long as possible. Then there's that Cicinho guy - who is supposed to be decent - but he may not be 100% fit and harmonizing yet. It looks to be Marco. Andreolli? Lord knows when he'll play. His injury is a nuisance for his development with the team, but largely a non-factor.

Thieves:
Line 'em up. Mauro Camoranesi pulled his right thigh’s third medial rectus femoris muscle or something (duh). Antonio Nocerino was taken out by a Fiat. Hasan Salihamsandwich may or may not play for unspecified reasons (aka I'm too lazy to look them up). Jean-Alain Boumsong strained his vagina. Jonathan Zebina bitch slapped a guy in pink, giving credence to his immense masculinity, and has thus been suspended. Marco Marchionni has picked up a mild case of SARS (or something). Zydnek Grygera has done something that will likely preclude him from playing (yeah, that's the official medical term). Karma, baby. Karma.

Key Matchups


Roma v Fatigue:
During the Dynamo game it was no big secret the boys got tired as the game progressed. After all, this was the third fixture in a week for some, even though only one had played close to a full 180 270 - I can't add (Simone, but stamina is what he does). This will be key during the second half, when the Bianconeri will be on fresher legs (you know, seeing as how they're not in Europe and all). If they can keep composed and a few more rested faces come in then it shouldn't be a big deal.

But then there's the Fiorentina game on Wednesday. Not pretty. Probably the biggest factor during this game, as well as the next two weeks.

0jmmm2vg-346×212.jpgPhilippe Mexes v 1st Degree Murder:
As much as I'd love it, I don't want to see Philou two foot Pavel Nedved in the chest at any point during the match. We all know those two aren't exactly bosom buddies, but Philou just doesn't like Juve. Period. He's had his spats, he will have more, hopefully they just don't result in any pretty colored cards. With how dominant he has been, one of my biggest worries.

Francesco Totti v Gianluigi Buffon:
There is really little to be said about this. Juventus' back line wouldn't strike fear into the hearts of a girls mentally challenged sunday school team (we'll call them Lazio). So who will win the matchup between two of the best the world has to offer? Serie B or not, Gigi is the best in the world, hands down; while Francesco is the most dangerous striker in the world right now (counting last season), with 3 goals in 3 games, all striking the final nail in the coffin. As always, a matchup for the ages.

Mancini (or Lulu) & Max Tonetto v Juve's Patchwork Right Side:
Here's what the IR for Juve's right side looks like: Camo, Grygera, Zebina (mentally injured), Nocerino, Marchionni and potentially Salihamsandwich. Starting will be Birindelli and who the hell knows. Take it down that left hand side early and often, and then some more. It's like someone left the side door to the bank vault open and you have all night to loot to your heart's desire.

Roma v The Goal Line:
479 minutes and counting. Wouldn't that just be splendid to stretch the streak against Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves.

Tactics

Tackle. Run. Pass. Pass. Pass. Wait. Overlap. Clusterfuck. Goal. Celebrate.

Game

It's quite obvious what Roma is going to try to do. The question is how well they can do it and for how long. At this point the team has really yet to fire on all cylinders, although there were some stretches during that first half in Sicily as well as the buildup to Simone's goal on Wednesday that were drool-worthy. What happens if a highly motivated side can put some stretches like those against a team missing quick a few key members and backups? Well, it becomes "how long can Gigi hold up the dam?"

Juventus isn't going to be hiding their gameplan in any super secret underground bunkers either. They'll try to create and feed the two forwards up top, and try to keep Roma from sneaking the damn ball past midfield, because this team could potentially bleed goals. The biggest question is how well they can plug the holes and prevent Roma from scoring at will. And if Andrade and Criscito give Il Capitano too much space, good bye game.

No matter what, the game will be hard fought and there will more than likely be a few cards and beaucoup free kicks. The defense is much improved from August and the team has done so well controlling games that it's hard to believe they won't have similar success until the old legs start to get a little tired. Another factor, which is often brought up less, is the crowd. Water can help, pacing yourself, or taking a rest here and there will help, but nothing helps buoy the legs like a raucous Olimpico crowd. Hopefully the return of Juventus will be enough to throw Curva Sud and the rest of the stands into a frenzy, and give the boys that extra little bit of adrenaline they need when the second half rolls around. So if you're going to be there, get after it.

In the end, I think Roma's form, quality and playing at home will be enough to hold off the big, bad Serie B champs, but it will still be a very close and very tough game. Roma for the win. (Duh)

Quotes


“When I decided to leave Parma, I wanted to come to Rome and not Turin. However Sensi preferred Pelizzoli because he was younger.”
- Gigi Buffon. Ugh.

“I couldn’t care less about Juventus. I don’t want to know of any transfer stories regarding myself and them. I’ve never imagined myself as a Bianconero. I am a Roma player and I don’t want to hear about such things. I am staying at this club and I’m not pondering anything else.” - Philippe Mexes. All hail Philou.

“We always went into this game as the underdogs. This year our meetings with Juve will be in a sort of balance between our results and their prestigious history.”
- Daniele De Rossi. Translation: Hey Juve, you're not the big, bad wolf anymore. Suck a toad, cheaters.

“I think that Roma are the favourites, but in the grand scheme of things the two teams are of equal strength.”
- Alex Del Piero. Really? Funny, I didn't get that memo.

“In my career I have drawn with Juventus twice, but never won. It’s not too bad, anyway. I will ask my lads to give me a gift.”
- TGIP. Get the man a damn gift, fellas.

Predictions


Score:
2-0 Roma
Goals:
Mexes (19), Totti (77)
MOTM: Daniele De Rossi, for closing down the entire midfield
Yellows: 8 (heated affair)
Red: 1 (Nedved - for being an ass clown. An ass clown with great hair, but an ass clown nevertheless.)
Doni Related Cardiac Arrests: 756
Times ADP Will Get Bitched Off The Ball:
97

Where: Stadio Olimpico
When: Sunday, 3:00 Roman Time, 9a EST
TV: US, Fox Sports Channel, 9a EST.
Streams: Here, here and here.



FORZA ROMA

(I need to edit/fact-check more often, my b)

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