I pride myself on my honesty, so here goes; I had no idea there was a match tomorrow. Let's chalk it up to derby day delirium and call it a day. Nevertheless, here we are, it's Tuesday and Roma are presumably on their way to South Central Ligura to take on Sampdoria. So, if you're like me and forgot there was a match on Wednesday, take a break from being inundated by car insurance humpday commercials and enjoy yourself some Roma.
Four in a row and Roma on top of the table, even the most cockeyed of optimists couldn't have envisioned this a month ago. So, whether it's because of Rudy Garcia's impeccable style, Daniele De Rossi's completely warranted lewd gestures, or Federico Balzaretti's impassioned display on derby day, Roma is riding a high the likes of which hasn't been seen in over a decade.
Take a second, look above you, see that blade? That's the sword of Damocles, teetering over Roma's collective hopes and dreams. Whether or not it drops this week is immaterial, it's a constant presence in our lives, hoisted upon us by second place finishes, questionable calls, and backdoor dealings up north.
So, believe me when I tell you, first place or not, Wednesday's match is not a given. Look no further than the recent history between Roma and their former Kappa clad brethren. Dating back to 2009, Sampdoria has swept aside the Giallorossi three times, while playing to two draws. Whip out your abacuses (abacai?) and do the math, and you'll see that Roma has one single victory against the Blucerchiati since 2009.
That being said, one look at the table should boost your spirits. Samp enters this match in 16th place, with zero victories through the season's first month and only four goals to their good name. Their team statistics would have you believe they're a 12th-13th place team, while Lorenzo De Silvestri is their only player among the league's top 50. So, when it comes to the latest edition of Sampdoria, there isn't much to discuss.
Gone are the days when opponents had to fret about players like Giampaolo Pazzini, Antonio Cassano, or even Mauro Icardi. But when you're scored upon by the likes of Marcelo Estigarribia, Gianluca Sansone and Gianni Munari, as Roma was last season, the names on the back don't matter.
Sampdoria isn't that exciting, and while taking 12 out of 12 possible points is great, these are exactly the sort of matches Roma must win if they are to have a realistic shot at competing for the Scudetto this season.
So we'll dispatch with the key matchups for this week, and take a look at Rudi Garcia's rise in Roman lore.
Rudi The Romanista
Certain things in this sport make sense; Team A scores more than Team B, they win, only the guy in the funny looking shirt can touch the ball with his hands, and, if you value your external organs, then, by God, you cup them when defending a free kick.
While other things are completely illogical, like, for instance, why does a cotton-poly blend with some guy's name on it cost as much as a week's worth of groceries?
But I digress...ultimately a club's success rises and falls with the eleven young men on the field, that much is obvious, yet the man in the finely pressed suit causes a great deal of consternation for the hordes of us prone to arguing on the internet.
They say silence can be deafening, that somehow an absence of noise drives a man insane. Fortunately for Roma, this platitude has fallen on...uh, deaf ears?
There has been no caterwauling about lineups or vivisections of Garcia's press conferences. No second hand smoke damaging Dodo's young lungs or splitting the ends of Balzaretti's luscious locks, and no claims that Garcia's tactics are too foreign to succeed in Italy.
It's been calm, almost serene.
Whether you were a firm follower of Luis Enrique, or if you just got caught up in the nostalgia of Zdenek Zeman, it's beginning to look as though Rudi Garcia has achieved in four weeks what his predecessors never could; casting aside the uncertainties and restoring the confidence of an entire city. Confidence that, at long last, they've found a man with whom the club can grow in lock step.
And that's really the beauty of it; in Garcia, Roma have created a pastiche of Enrique's youthful exuberance and Zeman's unbreakable will.
But, as we're all too familiar, success in Rome is never guaranteed and far from an easy road to hoe. What really felled Enrique, Zeman and even Andreazzoli were the seemingly overlooked fixtures, the ones that all good reason and sound logic dictate should be an easy, breezy three points.
After all, he history of the Eternal City is replete with men who've schemed and plotted to win the hearts and minds of the plebeians, yet, due to arrogance or simple complacency, they ignored the foundation upon which their realm was built. Empires aren't constructed upon assumptions; they require detailed, efficient and peerless execution.
Rattling off four wins in a row, capped off by an emotional victory in the derby, Rudi Garcia now faces an even tougher foe, expectations. In order to continue his ascendency, Garcia cannot relent, he cannot ignore, and he cannot assume a victory over Lazio assures a victory over Sampdoria.
To avoid the fates of Enrique, Zeman, or even Romulus Augustus, Rudi Garcia cannot take for granted the battle lain before him.