This was supposed to be the sentimental return of a couple of former Giallorossi greats. But the footy gods have struck and it looks as though this has gone from a reunion to just a plain old Serie A game. I think I speak for everyone when I say: damn.
Vincenzo Montella put his knee through the meat grinder and is out a couple months, while Antonio Cassano had a meltdown of epic proportions. (I've only ever witnessed one meltdown which beats Antonio's, and it was within the last 3 weeks - I think its because of Christmas. Someone should've told God to set Jesus' due date to the summer so it wouldn't coincide with Christmas.) The meltdown is here, in case you enjoy watching car accidents and laughing at funerals.
So while we won't see the return of any striking legends from the past, the current and future striking legend returns after two games in absentia. Il Capitano is back in the fold and he's starting. And for that we all bow our heads and thank the good footy lords.
But as you may know, there's a quota at the training table and if someone comes back, another sacrificial lamb must be sent to keep the medical staff happy. Taddei will miss the game after some knocks against Torino, while King Alberto has yet to have his leash removed. Philippe Mexes is also suspended, which means it's the return of The Matteo Ferrari Show.
So as craptastic as Roma has looked the last few weeks, Sampdoria has looked worse. They've lost 3-1 to Livorno, 1-0 to Cagliari (Coppa) and 3-2 to Udinese, then drew with a Fiorentina team which is in the midst of a downward spiral and have begun circling the bowl of the calcio toilet. The one win was against future Serie B participant Reggina. So Samp strikes fear into the hearts of nobody.
BERTAGNOLI Julio Sergio
DE ROSSI Daniele
Samp: Portieri : Castellazzi, Mirante.
Difensori : Accardi, Campanaro, Gastaldello, Lucchini, Rossini.
Centrocampisti: Franceschini, Maggio, Palombo, Pieri, Poli, Sammarco, Volpi, Zenoni, Ziegler.
Attaccanti: Bellocci, Bonazzoli, Caracciolo.
Rodrigo. Alberto. Marco A. And David suffered an injury against Torino so while he may play, it's at least something to watch for.
Panucci, Ferrari, Juan, Tonetto;
Giuly, Perrotta, Mancini;
Three spots where we could see some variation. One is DDR's partner, depending on how LD is feeling. Could see some Matteo Brighi action. If not either Vuci or Cassetti could replace Giuly in the lineup. Vuci taking over the LW and shifting Mancini to RW. Casseti slotting in behind Tonetto on the left and pushing Mancini over to RW or Cassetti playing at RW himself. I really don't see Spalletti trusting Cicinho enough in this game, which has become incredibly important. So pencil him into your starting XI.
Campagnaro, Sala, Gastaldello;
Maggio, Palombo, Volpi, Pieri;
They'll almost definitely play a 3 back defense, and probably run with a 3-4-2-1. They've been hit by injuries too, so don't expect this lineup to stick.
Fatigue v Samp's Week of Rest: While Roma had the pleasure of being embarrassed by Torino during the week, Sampdoria was at practice, resting up while getting massages and fed grapes by scantily clad women in preparation for this game. And while The Grand Imperial Poobah put in what is far from the first XI, many key guys played significant minutes, and some a full 90 (DDR, Mancini, Vuci, Perrotta and Ferrari). I don't think it's any great revelation that the only place the Giallorossi don't seem to get fatigued is between the sheets (there have been A LOT of babies born in the last calendar year - I'm just sayin'). This team will be far from 100%, and with that whole second half curse thing, it'll be a hell of an uphill battle if they get too tired.
Roma v Matteo Ferrari's Form: I'm not going to say that Matteo Ferrari has been horrendous this year; he looks solid at times, albeit like a deer looking straight into the headlights of an 18-wheeler. But for a bench guy, he's made quite a few mistakes which put his greasy handprints all over dropped points (someone forward that to his agent). Obviously he's a talent, but if he gets bitched around like he's Diego Tristan's step child again, or tackles a statue like Bobo Vieri with the ball 5 yards away, Roma will be in deep deep shit, especially if those finishing booties go missing.
Roma v Finishing: The only consolation of the last week has been that outside of Alvaro Recoba, Torino still has a climb to reach the moderately inefficient finishing levels of Roma. So at least that's something. They're probably going to create some chances, as I don't see Sampdoria sitting back and parking the team plane in front of goal a la Livorno, so let's finish a couple. Or hell, at least put 'em on target so there's a chance for Simone to come in and snag a rebound. One of these days, please.
Totti v The World: No question he is a difference maker, and the conditions tomorrow should help considerably over that game in Livorno, which made the pitch look like a rumble strip. Staying healthy is the first part. Being healthy enough to be the Totti we all know is another. Let's hope those two weeks off will be enough to rekindle the magic that is Francesco Totti.
Sampdoria is a strange team. Very strange. Sometimes they play some pretty nice football, and have the ability to score some serious goalage. But if they don't, it's a disaster. Looking at their scores from this year is odd, because in nearly every game one team is going home with a goose egg. In only 5 games in all competitions have both teams scored. That's just a ridiculous stat, yeah?
Samp is missing a lot of firepower, and even though Claudio Bellucchi has knocked in 8, the loss of Cassano will be huge. The midfield is above par, with Maggio, Volpi, Palombo and Piero, as well as Ziegler, the young Swissman who could come off the bench or start (I'm a fan). The defense isn't so much the worry as is getting into quality positions past the midfield, because the two wings play like wingbacks and can both defend.
So basically, I think you're looking at a less talented Udinese, which is more than fine by me. A decent amount of open play. A lot of space to be found and hopefully some serious chances to be had for the boys in red & yellow. Let's just hope they can finish off the game. Let's hope the Torino loss lit a fire under their asses and they attempt to go into the break with a nice, comfortable victory.
And one team isn't going to score a goal, I'll bet it's Sampdoria.
Score: 3-0 Roma
Goals: Totti (33), Perrotta (39), Perrotta (54)
Mancini "Give-A-Shit-Factor": 6
When: 2030 CET, 1430 EST
Where: Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Forecast: 9°C, about a 50/50 chance of rain.