Massimo Cellino: How Could You Stay Mad at That Face? - Claudio Villa
The first encounter between these two squads never happened, but that won't dull the animosity on the pitch. Eighth place Roma welcomes sixteenth place Cagliari to the Olimpico. Three points, anything less will spell doom for Roma.
If you're wondering what sort of drama is ruling the Roma roost, I'll refer you to Chris' excellent transfer deadline coverage. We'll leave this one strictly on the pitch, as Roma welcome Cagliari to the Olimpico on a rare Friday night encounter.
I'll refer you to the preview for the original match, but in case you forgot, Cagliari's new arena wasn't, by some estimates, ready for, you know, actual people to sit in it. Massimo Cellino said ‘bump that' and invited fans anyway, the game was initially postponed, then canceled, then Roma awarded a forfeiture, three points, and three imaginary goals.
I believe this was also the time the newest CdT debuted...take that as you will.
The good: Daniele De Rossi made the squad list, no small feat considering he was expected to miss two weeks, though it remains to be seen if he will start.
The bad(ish): Federico Balzaretti has not been included in this week's squad list. There's no doubt his form has suffered over the past three weeks or so, but if you go back and look at the run Roma were on in late November to December, it coincided with Federico's best performances; I'll leave it to you to decide whether that constitutes causality or mere correlation.
The incredibly awkward: Like I said, Chris covered it well...but talk about awkward, finally getting your wish, flying to London only to turn back around and be forced to watch Mauro's somewhat feeble and vertically challenged attempts to track in-swingers. He may not have gotten his wish today, but Maarten Stekelenburg might as well update his CV.
The depressing: Roma sits in 8th place, Cagliari in 16th, separated by 13 points. However, over their last six, each side has managed one victory, two draws and three losses. Gotta say, I didn't see that one coming.
The opponent: Cagliari has scored 21 goals, 4th fewest in the league or the sum total of Erik Lamela and Pablo Osvaldo's tally. But, hey! They've only allowed 38 goals...or the same as Roma. However, Cagliari's -17 goal differential is only ‘worsted' by Pescara.
Cagliari has been paced by the Three D's: Daniele Conti, Danilo Avelar, and Davide Astori, who have been the Rossoblu's best trio. Though the fact that they're all largely defensive players tells you all you need to know about Cagliari's offense this season...they struggle, to put it mildly.
Our Guys: The question remains whether DDR, though miraculously fit, will actually start, let alone play in this match. So a Michael Bradley, Alessandro Florenzi and Panagiotis Tachtsidis midfield is a strong possibility. Early indications point towards Dodo, not newly acquired Vasilis Torosidis, starting in Balzaretti's stead, which is good news for fans of fast, flashy Brazilian fullbacks. While the remainder of the backline should look like normal: Marquinhos, Leandro Castan and Ivan Piris.
With Mattia Destro most likely done for the year and with no fresh blood brought in (as of this posting), the trident of Lamela, PDO, and Francesco Totti should get plenty of minutes over the next three months. The concern, of course, is fatigue (Francesco), consistency (Lamela), and self-control (PDO), particularly as there are no actual forwards on the bench, beyond the malleable Marquinho. Being stretched this thin, especially with the midfield a constant source of worry, doesn't bode well for a club in desperate need for points, not to mention simple luck.
The Verdict: Where there's math, there's hope. Roma are a mere three points out of Europa League qualification, so don't cancel your vacation plans just yet. But it goes without saying, dropping any points to Cagliari will be a blow to the collective Roman ego, not to mention a huge mar on our mathematical hopes.
Zeman was granted a bit of a reprieve following his midweek meeting, just how long those good feelings last will depend a lot on Friday's outcome.