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Waiting On The Return Of The Golden Boots

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p1_totti_0315.jpgRoma - Cagliari

It's the replacement game from November 11th, which was canceled for reasons I'm sure we don't have to go into. I went back and perused the last preview, and this game couldn't be any more different. Back then, Roma was coming off two lackluster performances during which they had been shocked at Empoli and taken a completely undeserved point back with them on the plane returning from Portugal. That was Bad Roma. Good Roma has joined the party and this game looks as though it should be a walk in the park (which, as we know, is never the case).

This game could finally signal the return of His Francesconess, after spending the Udinese game watching from the bench - and sending most of the faithful into a tizzy when he started putting on his boots (guilty). While nothing is set in stone, it appears this might be the ideal game for him to get a solid half hour of work before starting the weekend match against Livorno. I had been hoping he'd start the Udinese match, but that was more because the opponent was Udinese than getting him onto the field just to get onto the field.

To keep this short and succinct: Roma is on tip-top form right now, firing on all cylinders (albeit not always on target), while Cagliari has take a whole 3 points since the first of October. You do the math.


Standings

Inter 31pts (+18)*
Roma 28pts (+11)*
Juventus 26pts (+16)
Udinese 25pts (+2)
Fiorentina 24pt (+8)

Totti:
“Roma, with or without Totti, are always challengers and on Wednesday we want to beat Cagliari and if Lazio could upset Inter and do us a favour…”

I'll let him say it.

Last Domestic 5


Roma:
WWWDW

Sardines:
DLLDL

Pretty much polar opposites. Also, Roma has taken a possible 24 out of 30 points in their last 10 fixtures. You know, that's pretty decent...

Squads


Roma:
Antunes, Barusso, Brighi, Curci, Cicinho, De Rossi, Doni, Esposito, Ferrari, Giuly, Juan, Mancini, Mexes, Panucci, Pit, Pizarro, Taddei, Tonetto, Totti, Vucinic, Zotti

* - Apparently DDR isn't suspended for this game. Who knows, I'm not complaining.

Cagliari:
Portieri: Marruocco e Koprivec; Difensori: Agostini, Bianco, Bizera, Canini, Del Grosso, Ferri, Lopez, Magliocchetti, Pisano; Centrocampisti: Acosta, Biondini, Budel, Conti, Fini, Foggia, Mancosu; Attaccanti: Acquafresca, Larrivey, Matri.

Key Injuries

Simone. King Alberto. Cassetti. Andreolli. Out. Bah humbug.

Probable XIs


Roma:

Doni;
Cicinho, Mexes, Juan, Tonetto;
DDR, Pizarro;
Taddei, Giuly, Mancini;
Vucinic.

This one is tough, as I think there are a few alternatives. First RB, where it could be either OMR or Cicinho. Let's hope for the sake of tranquility it's Cicinho, because I see absolutely no reason he should be on the bench for this game, which would make it his 4th game in a row. The right wing is also another possible, even if far fetched, with the possibility of Espo making his starting XI debut (with all the injuries, I still have a hard time believing it). We'd assume the CM partnership will consist of DDR and Little David, but we could see a surprise with Ahmed Barusso or Matteo Brighi in there and the possibility of LD playing further up at trequartista (or even DDR resting). And then there's Totti. Color me mystified.

Cagliari:


Marruocco;
Ferri, Bizera, Bianco, Agostini;
Conti, Biondini, Fini;
Foggia, Aquafresca, Matri.


Key Matchups


The Foot v The Brain:
It's no secret that Roma saves the best for the big guns, and can occasionally get caught sleeping against the minnows (hello, Empoli). This is just such a game. Aside from the whole "on paper" thing, Roma is on top form at the moment and Cagliari ain't. That doesn't mean, however, that they can't be dangerous if Roma decides to turn the game into naptime. A mentally prepared Roma relying on ability wins this running away. The Roma that showed up in Portugal and the second half in Tuscany makes this a little dangerous.

Back Four v Final Third:
In watching the game between Cagliari & Milan, it seemed as though the Sardinians gameplan against the more talented team - even at home - was to (forcedly) sort of sit back and absorb the pressure (there will be about 3cm of space between the back line and midfield - an area generously called "Cambiasso's Member"), and when they took possession, send out the wave of forwards while stalling the team bus which will be parked at the Olimpico in all its glory. Wipe out the trio/duo playing furthest up, as well as limiting set pieces/corners, and much of the attacking life of Cagliari will be smothered, allowing Roma to set up The Clusterfuck at their leisure.

Which of course brings up the most potent part of that attack...

Pasquale Foggia v The Midfield:
As much as it pains me to say it - he is owned by Lazio and all - this kid is one hell of a dynamic talent. So much so that in the Milan game he largely outshined Kaka despite not scoring. Foggia is an integral part of their Team Bus counterattacking methods, namely hoof it out to Foggia (usually on the right but he drifts) and let him do his thing. One of the dangers with him is allowing space and time to go 1 v 1 on any defender. The sensible thing is to use a DM to kind of hover and make sure a) getting the ball isn't all that easy in the first place, b) he is at least slowed down by having to go through multiple defenders.

Head v Head:
(This is from the earlier preview, but it still holds true.) One of Cagliari’s strengths appears to be quick-hitting aerial ability, despite a relative lack of height. One of Cagliari’s weaknesses in the back appears to be, uh, aerial ability. So the aerial attack is one of their weapons and one of their downfalls. Whatever works. So, if whoever is playing in back can get up and knock ‘em down, they win half the battle. If they can get up themselves down the other end, they just might win the war based on this alone. Of course, that is if TGIP doesn’t throw out The Roman Oompa Loompa Squadron.

Game

This one is tough to peg because I really have no clue what to expect regarding the XI being brought out onto the field. If guys like Cicinho and Espo start, it could be an exciting and attacking game but a little more dangerous on the back end than Spalletti is hoping for. Same goes for the midfield, where a surprise start from Ahmed could be in the cards, but he's still really green in terms of Serie A-level experience and that could come back to bite them in the arse in the event that he does something stupid (like tackle Pizarro or DDR). This appears, with Roma on splendid form, a time to give some guys minutes after playing 3 games in a week and a half, but they are still gunning for the top spot. Who knows.

What we do know is this: Roma is good, Cagliari is not. Roma can attack like no other team in Serie A and Cagliari can't exactly defend with the best of 'em. Chances are Roma will have an Empoli-esque game, spending beaucoup time hanging out with Vincenzo Marruocco, the only question is, as usual, can they finish those chances? A Roma with optimal clinical finishing for a day probably means we're looking at a reenactment of Catania last year - no matter how they get the ball up to the net.

Depends on the finishing, but this appears to be teetering on the line between "comfortable victory" and "massive footballing love explosion" (that's code for blowout). Which means, knowing Roma...get ready for a hard-fought, scrappy victory. (Nah.) But it depends on the XI, mostly. (And whenever Il Capitano returns, of course.)


Predictions


Score:
3-0 Roma
Goals: Vucigol (17), Cicinho (38), Totti (78)

One of those Cicinho howitzers HAS to go in one of these days. Just bring it down a little. And we welcome back the return of The Closer.

MOTM: Uhhh...uhhh...pick 'em? (I'll go with Cicinho - which means he;ll probably be on the bench.)
Mancini "Give-A-Shit-Factor": 5.5

When:
2030 CET, 1430 EST
Where: Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Forecast: Sunny, 14°C (43°F)

Streaming:
Here.
USTV: FSC 8p Delay



FORZA ROMA