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Welcome Back To Rome (Now Suit Up)

tmpphp8lho4f.jpgRoma v Udinese

Guess how long it has been since the boys played in the Olimpico? 1 month, 2 days - or that's what it will be on Sunday. And that was the Derby, which is really as far from a standard home game as you're gonna get. Last Serie A home game? October 20th against Napoli. There's no place like home. There's no place like home. There's no place like home.

And there's no place like Kyiv. In case you missed the show in Ukraine, the Roma JV steamrolled right through Dynamo Kyiv. Hopefully an indicative performance, as it had been a few months since that type of performance for Serie A's most beautifullest team, and the team Arsene Wenger couldn't stop gushing about in the beginning of the year.

Udinese come in on a high and looking more dangerous than ever, handing Fiorentina their first defeat of the campaign just before the break. I'm torn on this team. I don't want to like them, but I almost can't help it. They're like a mini-Roma (with a lot of former Roma players), with all their attacking and occasionally beautiful play. The young core which only appears as though it will get better (well, minus Mr. Christmas). To me, this is a more dangerous game than either Milan or Fiorentina, maybe even Juventus. This is the type of team that can exploit one weakness and use it to their advantage all day long, or just continually jab jab jab til they force you to drop a glove and open yourself up. One area of space is all they need - through the middle, up the flanks, in the air - and they can defend a little bit, too. Standings reflect just that.

With ManYoo being pragmatically meaningless, this game is easily the toughest Roma will have in the next two months. And while not necessarily a must-win, it would be a huge 3 points and go a long way in helping keep up with Inter. Huge game. Huge game.

(And if rumors are to be believed, it may be an upclose audition for Mr. Christmas, aka Antonio Di Natale. No. Thank. You.)


1. Inter 28pts (+16)
2. Juventus 25pts (+16)
3. Roma 25pts (+10)
4. Udinese 25pts (+3)
5. Fiorentina 24pts (+10)

Roma and Inter have a game in hand. The other big factor to this weekend has nothing to do with Roma as Inter travels to Firenze and Juventus to the San Siro. Put on those Viola & Rossoneri scarves, people. Milan & Fiorentina can do more for Roma than Roma this weekend. Anyway, hell of a weekend to be a Serie A fan.

Last 5








All the same as Wednesday's post, except for Philou, who will most likely be back.

Cristian Zapata is doubtful, while Giandomenico Mesto is questionable and Felipe is out via suspension. All three out would be just huge for Roma.

Probable XIs


OMR, Mexes, Juan, Tonetto;
DDR, Pizarro;
Taddei, Giuly, Mancini;

The question is whether or not Philou will be truly ready (If Spalletti asks him on Sunday morning how many fingers he's holding up and Mexes says 'blue', I doubt he's going to get the go-ahead). If not, OMR slots into central defense and either Marco Cassetti or Cicinho comes in at RB. As much as I'd like Cicinho, I think it has to be Cassetti with Udinese's 3 headed monster of an attack and Andrea Dossena playing as a left midfielder - he can get down the line well into an attacking position. And yeah, I'm implying they're bringing in Cassetti for defensive purposes. Pigs be flyin.

The other thing is I'd almost like to see Max Tonetto out there in the LW position (I know I know I said I don't like it - but just for this game) because of either Fab Quags or Simone Pepe, pairing with Giandomenico Mesto to make life down that left hand flank a real hassle. All 3 can really get up and down and have some skill to boot. If ever there was a game for the two fullback flank, this is it. Rumor is, though, that Taddei and Mancini will both start (unless Rodrigo starts in the middle). We shall see.


Coda, Zapata, Lukovic;
Mesto, Inler, D'Agostino, Dossena;
Pepe, Quagliarella, Di Natale.

Felipe and Zapata both appear to be out, so Andrea Coda and Tomas Zapotocny will likely fill in back there. Coda is a talent, but not quite there yet, so this could be a great game for Vucinic and Giuly if they pair up once again. The midfield is almost always the same, with not-so-old old boy Gaetano D'Agostino in the middle, making his plays, though Mesto may miss (which means another former Roma boy comes in - Damiano Ferronetti). Up top will be Udinese's goal scoring duo. The third member dictates who plays where. Could be the other old boy, Simone Pepe, who has really come on this year and is looking right at home out on the right wing, or Antonio Floro Flores, who plays in the center. Right now I'd guess Pepe, but we shall see. I think I'd prefer Pepe just as well, as I've always thought Fab Quags was a little more effective laterally, working his way in (or shotting from God knows where). Rather than as the guy accepting crosses.

There could be 3 ex-Giallorossi youth products in the Udinese lineup. We could title this game Roma: What Could Have Been. (And what might be.)

Key Matchups

Vucigol v The Replacments:
I'm sure everybody at Udinese was watching the Dynamo game intently, and took away from it that they need to pay extra special attention to Vucigol all over the field. Especially with their two best defenders likely watching the game from somewhere other than the field. Coda and Zapotocny aren't slouches, but they're going to have a long day marking Mirko down. More of Tuesday's Vuci and we're all happy campers.

Defensive Flanks v Udinese's Lateral Forwards: Key to the defensive aspect of the game right here, maybe the entire game. Antonio Di Natale has struck lightning in a bottle this year, considering he's 31 and averages a whole 9 goals a year in Serie A (if this was Major League Baseball we'd be hearing a lot of coughsteroidscough), but he has still been productive and you can't discount that. On the other end, either Fab Quags or Pepe will line up on the right and both are dangerous, though one more than the other. I've been very impressed by Pepe's abilities to send in some decent crosses this year, and as we know, Fab Quags' range extends well beyond the penalty area. I dare say if the Roman fullbacks, whoever they may be, push them out wide and give them as little space as possible, even risking getting beat 1 v 1, and prevent them from getting too many touches in or around the box, much of Udinese's offensive firepower will be nullified. If not, could be dangerous.

Udinese v Panuccigol: 4 in a row? There's no there?

Attacking v Exposing The Counter: This is going to be a very fine line. Regardless of who plays for whom, Roma is going to get its chances to create some goals and get that clusterfuck going. That's great, as long as it works and they don't open themselves up to a counter or the like (I'm looking at you, David). Udinese has some guys with some speed up top and a few guys on the other end who can send in a damn nice longball for someone to run onto. Creating chances is great and necessary, just can't get too overzealous and find themselves needing to beat Asafa Powell's world speed record to catch a guy breaking free.

* - This is one aspect where the loss of Felipe is massive, as he can send in some beautiful balls from way back.

Good Doni v Bad Doni:
Just assume this is going to be one of the keys against any squad with even a hint of attacking life. Not only does Udinese have dangerous attacking options, but they have one guy who can shoot from anywhere within the stadium and expose goalkeeper's decision making at any time. I don't know if you'd noticed, but Doni isn't exactly Einstein out there. In fact, sometimes I'd like to throw a brain dead gorilla between the sticks and see how things work out. Doni can both save and lose this game for Roma. Pray for Good Doni.


If the game in Ukraine was any indication, as we hope it was, this should be all Roma, all day long - just to a lesser degree. I think Roma will come out strong and on the attack, brimming with confidence after their trip abroad, and as well all know, one of the biggest keys to the success of this team is its mentality.

Udinese does well absorbing tons of pressure because of their ability to play two tweeners on the flanks in Dossena, and to a lesser degree, Ferronetti (if he plays). So when they're on the attack they play as midfielders, but are able to transform into a 5 back defense of sorts when being pressured. I haven't seen nearly enough of them to comment, but that could be one of their greatest reasons for success right there. Adaptation, especially within a system, is massive. (Presumably part of what Spalletti is looking for in the one-fullback-at-wing system.) Having Taddei back will be instrumental of lessening the attacking impact of both Di Natale and Dossena, who from all accounts is having one hell of a year so far. And even indirectly, kelping take care of Dossena enables the RB, whoever it is, to fully focus on Di Natale and whatever he plans on doing. Very very nice to have Rodrigo back.

A lot of how this team plays depends on who is on the pitch. If Vucigol and Lulu Gulu are on, then it's everyone's job to find them early and often, hoping a few times to catch Udinese on the counter through long balls or pin-balling it through the midfield. David & Daniele would do well to throw out a couple (accurate) long balls just to test things out early. Otherwise, expect the quick-passing and rhythmic offense gravitating towards the center of the pitch with Mancini, Gulu and Vucigol getting into the act often.

Even though Udinese defends well and is pretty smart with their attacking, leaving as few holes as possible, Roma's form this week combined with the likely loss of their two best defenders just does not foreshadow a happy day for Udinese. They'll have some scary moments, and I think this will be one of the best games of the campaign, but Roma's talent, even on the JV, is just a little bit two much. A 2 goal differential, with plenty of excitement from both sides.

* - And if Bad Doni shows up, throw all of this out the window.


3-1 Roma
Goals: Vucigol (22), Mancini (34), D'Agostino (47), Mancini (67)
MOTM: Mancini
Mancini "Give-A-Shit-Factor": 8.5

1500 CET, 9 EST
Where: Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Forecast: 17°C, partly cloudy. Bizarro Kyiv.

USTV: FSC 8p Delay