LONDON ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 17: A detailed view of the UEFA Champions League Trophy during the UEFA Champions League Final 2011 Ticket Launch at City Hall on February 17 2011 in London England. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Oh how rare, how rare indeed, that we find these two teams battling for similar spoils in a similar hour. In this case, the rich, bountiful Xanadu of the Champions League and its two-dimensional replica set stuffed behind a dumpster on Lot C in Hollywood, the Europa League. Someone with a kind heart and the nature to care may do the actual maths, but a loss significantly depletes Roma's chances of a European jaunt to the quarterfinals and back (either/or) in the year ahead. Within the Luis Enrique era, this remains the all-encompassing fixture beyond the name of the clubs on order - a question, above all, of points and psychology. A loss of spoils may well extend into extra zeros attached onto the checks for this summer's ultimate turnover as they can't offer new Spanish-speaking recruits the sumptuous delight of European football in any form, impacting bottom lines, budgets, Saba's Marlboro expense account, etc. The Roman world as we know it may crumble.
It is so often considered, for those who've yet to mount a charge into war that is pre-game panic attacks, a one-off game, a singular sequence of moments in the season run twice, and yet this so clearly impacts the immediate and long-term future. How ever would they mentally, emotionally come back from yet another loss, never mind one of such significance? How would the fans continue to support Enrique, a man whose popularity is trending to slight decline with every thrashing by a tactician aspiring to mediocrity on every other weekend? Today, tomorrow, to June and beyond, this match assumes the importance of a lifetime.
And yet, nothing is to change, neither tactics nor philosophy nor mild taste of bile upon the first scything counterattack. The men are single-minded, bearing no misconception of their directive, a method with many answers, oft posing far too few questions. A tilted pitch towards the Sud it shall be, pushing on, pressing forward, leaving free the back, perhaps to send a dagger down on the way up. The terror of a black and blue such as one suffered by the blue and black to be suffered through a substitution of all colors rather none never so painful.
But, could arrogance reign the day? For all the faults of Rome's Spanish legion they are sure to knife through those willing, chest huffed, to buckle some swash against the tide of Luis' fleet, and no opposition's occasion calls for such fortitude as that of a derby, much less one of the Roman variety. A day for problem to be considered by mind over heart in a year of one failing to do the very same, yet wonderfully unlikely. Knives in the teeth it shall then be, led by the boy who knows no other way. A word never to be uttered in these parts lest one wishes to to be banished for all eternity, but much - gasp - hope lies ahead. The hour beckons...
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