Finally, a kinda-sorta meaningful game. Roma v South American All-Stars is today, if you hadn't noticed. While neither team really considers the trophy meaningful, they do consider the game somewhat meaningful due to the opponents. The last two times they played in a game that counted (we aren't counting the second leg of the Coppa - it was done after leg numero embarrassment) Roma dominated Inter thoroughly, including that infamous 6-2 win at the Olimpico. Unfortunately, this game will be played at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, home to Milan and those South American All-Stars - so I guess you could say Inter will have home team advantage (probably).
As far as Roma concerned, this will be a gauge to see where they truly stand after the suckitude that was the preseason. It's obviously fair to say this wasn't a true representation of the squad we'll see at full strength, but it will go a long way to say how the first few weeks of the season will go. There are still some lingering injuries which will leave some of the guys yearning a bit longer for those vaunted Spalletti ass slaps. The injuries I attempted to somewhat breakdown here yesterday.
The Probable Starting XIs:
Cassetti, Mexes, Panucci, Tonetto;
De Rossi, Aquilani;
Taddei, Perrotta, Mancini;
Inter: Julio Cesar;
Zanetti, Materazzi, Chivu, Maxwell;
Figo, Vieira, Dacourt, Stankovic;
Keeper: Despite being lifted last week for Gianluca Curci (presumably just to get the kid some added pitch time), Doni will be starting and should play the whole game. Keep the oxygen and nitroglycerin on standby, should be a doozy.
Defense: The back line will be the same one from last week's friendly with Juve, and will definitely be the biggest question and ultimate weak spot for the game. It's basically two converted wingers, a fullback and Philippe Mexes. Not exactly catanaccio at its finest, to say the least. But it'll have to do, because both Juan and Matteo Ferrari will be out. The one bright spot is Marco Andreolli could be tossed on at some point. At the very worst, he's a highly talented kid with inexperience that could be exposed in a relatively meaningless game. At the best? He shows everyone why he's hailed as the next Alessandro Nesta. I'm driving the bus for Andreolli to get significant PT today tomorrow, and I'm not the only one. In fact, it seems to be the majority consensus.
Inter's biggest strong point next year is obviously the 5 headed monster that is their striker attack (alright, -1 for Adriano tomorrow). Today's likely starters, David Suazo (bastardo) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, are two players who can easily expose defenders in 1 v 1 situations - a big Achilles for Roma's back four. Suazo's ability to play to space and beat offside traps will be one hell of a matchup for Christian Panucci and Mexes. Zlatan, well, is Zlatan. One of the most gifted players in the world and will be more than a hand full for the squad from Perrotta on down.
Midfield: Despite the absence of David Pizarro, this is probably the starting lineup you will see as the season progresses. Daniele De Rossi, Mancini and Simone Perrotta will all be returning (most likely), so the patchwork midfield will be no longer. Romanews is putting Ludovic Giuly in the probable starting lineup, but I do thinking it will be Amantino - despite the his lack of match time so far. De Rossi & Alberto Aquilani will probably be a little more aware of their defensive duties today with that Swiss cheese backline Roma is putting out. Taddei I'm just not worried about. Never do.
How the midfield will play together is a big question. Perrotta isn't at full strength, De Rossi is supposedly very close but not all the way there yet, and Mancini certainly isn't anywhere near full form yet (unless something spectacular happens). I think they may start out a little slow, but should start to throttle up as the game goes on and they remember what it's like to play with each other in an actual game. Other than that, we'll have to wait and see.
Forward: Francesco Totti. That is all.
Subs: Because of the injuries and craptasticness of the preseason, I have no idea how The Grand Imperial Poobah is going to play this one. We obviously won't see any of the kids get a run, but we will definitely see some of the boys get off the bench. The first is Mirko Vucinic, as I don't think Mancini will be given the whole game today (or even Totti if he doesn't want to play the full 90). It's also looking like TGIP really rates Vuci at that LW position highly, and it's hard to argue with it considering how well he started out against Juve. Ludovic Giuly will probably come in at some point, and likely for Perrotta. We may see Mauro Esposito, Matteo Brighi or Ahmed Barusso, depending on how TGIP feels as the second half comes around. Basically the only defensive substitute at the moment is Andreolli, so who the hell knows. I hope we see him, but I'm not holding my breath.
Chivu: This will be the first pseudo-competitive game against old boy Chivu. It certainly won't be as meaningful as the first trek to the Olimpico, but it will be something to say the least. There won't be anyone going out to injury him accidentally on-purpose or anything, but I would expect a few guys to make it a point to expose him. Of course this is a relatively meaningless game, so he'll probably look like the second coming of Franz Beckenbauer. I expect him to play well, but I do hope Il Capitano embarrasses him badly a couple times.
Man of the Match: Alberto Aquilani
Score: 2-1 Roma
Goals: Aquilani (56'), Totti (73'), Crespo (87')
Chivu: Trips on the touchline making his way out to the pitch before the game and breaks his nose on the back of Materazzi's boot. Out 2 weeks.
No matter how you feel about the status of the Supercoppa, this does look like a win-win situation for Roma. If they lose, it's just a preseason game where they were playing with that Swiss cheese back four and a midfield largely coming off injury. If they win? They will will have used a less than full strength squad to beat Inter. Again.
Stream: There are a few options here. I'd do my best to avoid using StreamerOne and go with either PPMate or TVAnts if you can. SOne works, but the picture quality makes Totti look like Big Sam Allardyce. (20:45 Italian time - 2:45 ET for the North Americans - Europeans are on their own, the fact that I can figure out 20:45 means 8:45 is nothing short of monumental for me. I'll quit while I'm ahead.)
Your Daily Cicinho Update:
There is really nothing to say here. Cicinho said it all:
“I don’t know if it will become official in 24 or 48 hours, but I do know this move will be completed,” he told the ‘Gazzetta dello Sport.’
“My agent met with a Roma emissary last night,” added the player. “There were no Real figures present because we have already spoken to them and sorted it out. We will conclude everything in the next few hours.”
I'll need to see it to believe it, but this is fantastic news. The deal is reportedly €8m for Real and €2.2m per annum for Cici. Both fair numbers, and if all the reports are true, a very good job in getting Real down to their valuation, not the other way around. It may have taken awhile, but Real dropped €4m off their asking price while Rosella supposedly only came up €1m. Hate her or not, the woman has done some financially prudent business this summer. And yeah, I know it was with Real Madrid, The King of Craptastic Valuations. But still. We're reaching for straws here. Even if it took a few years.
I doubt it will be official later today, but if it is, wonderful. The numbers/details are speculative at this point. Be assured I'll go way over the top in a post when it is made official.
The Sunday Finest:
I) There are some reports saying that David Pizarro could be out over a month and may not make his return until the middle of that 7 week gauntlet Roma has to look forward to. Obviously losing a player who can fill a role like Pizarro is never a good thing, but this is really setting up for Alberto Aquilani quite perfectly, isn't it? He'll have a month to prove that he is The Guy and that is His Spot. No matter where you stand on David, there's no denying that is Aquilani's spot and David is just keeping it warm. The only question is for how long.
II) Today is supposedly Judgment Day for Matteo Brighi, determining whether he'll be sold off or kept on as part of the legion. I really don't think he has too much to worry about. Even with Pizarro fully healthy, losing Matteo left the team a little thin in central midfield. Now that David will be missing for a month, Matteo is the only experienced Serie A central mid on the roster and I can't see any reason he won't be sticking around until January at the very least. It's just too illogical to sell him right now (not that that has ever stopped Rosella).
III) In case you missed it, a fully fit and healthy Adriano has been left off Inter's roster today. Presumably because the sight of Doni makes him want to go all Superman in the box without a defender within 5 yards and pick up suspensions. Either way, low blow to say the least.
IV) Just for good measure.....