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543498600_14103_hp.jpg(A gift for the ladies)

Fiorentina v Roma:

So here I am, finished with the Fiorentina preview Monday night - I know, a little early, but I'm still trying to get over that Juve game - and I wake up Tuesday morning to the news that Francesco Totti has pulled out due to an upper thigh injury. Well, not only had I written the preview, but the main theme was how fucking en fuego Francesco is right now and how he has yet to - shockingly - score a goal in Firenze in his entire career, which would be reason for him to be pissed off enough to come in and score a hat trick or two. I know Fiorentina spent a couple years working their way back up, but that's just a mind-boggling stat (no, I'm not forgetting he used to be a midfielder, it's just that's he's scored so many goals recently it's hard to believe he hasn't scored in every stadium in Europe). So, Roma is without Him. Moving on, I guess...

Now, the injury isn't bad, it won't prevent him from suiting up against Moratti's Mercenaries on Saturday, or ManYoo on Wednesday. In fact, it may almost be a blessing to get him a quick breather against the weaker of the three teams coming up (though by no means weak). So what does this mean? In Vucigol We Trust.

Juventus is behind us, even though I'm still steamed. But Fiorentina is no slouch and we have to put all our energy into that game, because, you know, we have a lot of impact on the outcome of the games. The Viola have played well thus far, with two wins and two draws (that's 2-0-2 for those scoring at home), the latter coming against Milan - decent squad - and Atlanata, who have sold their souls to the calcio devil for the start they're having (3rd place). The only real slip up was that draw last week against Dutch powerhouses - or not - FC Groningen, which is almost inexplicable, seeing as how Fiorentina are one of the favorites to finish second place behind Bayern Munich in the UEFA Cup.

So, what has defined the Viola for the last few years? Duh, Luca @#$%ing Toni. He's up in Germany doing German things and bagging goals galore, as he does so well. It's a big loss, no doubt, but Cesare Prandelli is very good at what he does - coaching, of course - and the Purple People Eaters have stepped up accordingly (except Giampaolo Pazzini, who is just completely dragging down my fantasy squad based on his price-performance ratio, but I refuse to sell him because one of these days...well, one of these days something is going to happen - good, I hope). The front line is good, damn good, in fact, despite the loss of Tonigol, with Adrian "China White Jr." Mutu, Bobo "China White Sr." Vieri, youngster Arturo Lupoli and the aforementioned fantasy parasite Pazzini (not to mention Jorgensen - out- and almost-Giallorosso Franco Semioli).

And I'm not sure if I should even post this because it's so utterly ridiculous, but Adrian Mutu has claimed he is BETTER THAN FRANCESCO TOTTI. That''s the type of statement you expect to hear from someone who wears a helmet on the short bus. Or George Bush. Come on, at least give the illusion that you don't belong straight-jacketed in a rubber room.

Standings


1. Roma 3-0-1 10pts (+7)

2. Inter 2-0-2 8pts (+4)
3. Fiorentina 2-0-2 8pts (+3)
4. Atalanta 2-0-2 8pts (+3)
5. Napoli 2-1-1 7pts (+5)
6. Juventus 2-1-1 7pts (+4)

Last Three


Roma:

2-2 Juventus (bullshit)
2-0 Dynamo Kyiv
2-0 Reggina

Fiorentina:

1-0 Catania
1-1 FC Groningen
2-2 Atalanta

Squads


Roma:
Aquilani, Antunes, Barusso, Bertagnoli, Brighi, Curci, Cicinho, De Rossi, Doni, Esposito, Ferrari, Giuly, Juan, Mancini, Mexes, Panucci, Pizarro, Taddei, Tonetto, Vucinic.

Viola:
Balzaretti, Dainelli, Donadel, Frey, Gamberini, Gobbi, Kroldrup, Kuzmanovic, Liverani, Lupatelli, Lupoli, Mazuch, Montolivo, Mutu, Osvaldo, Pasqual, Pazienza, Pazzini, Potenza, Santana, Semioli, Ujfalusi, Vanden Borre, Vieri.


Predicted XIs


Roma:

Doni;
Cicinho, Mexes, Ferrari, Tonetto;
De Rossi (c), Pizarro;
Esposito, Giuly, Mancini;
Vucinic.

I think at some point it's likely we see both Mauro Esposito and Matteo Brighi in some capacity. In fact, I wouldn't be entirely shocked to see Espo in the starting lineup.

Viola:


Ujfalusi, Dainelli, Gamberini, Balzaretti;
Gobbi, Donadel, Montolivo;
Semioli, Pazzini, Mutu.

Could be wrong, but it's going to be a 4-3-3 almost definitely.
Key Matchups

Cicinho (or Old Man River) v Adrian Mutu:
If Cicinho stars, he'll have the unenviable task of defending the part of the pitch where Adrian Mutu like to set up shop. Mutu has come a long way since his cocaine-huffing, gap-toothed prostitute banging (or porn star, same difference), on the pitch sucking Chelsea and Juventus days, and now is pretty good (Totti good? absolutely not, fucktard). Cicinho isn't exactly known for his defensive prowess, so this is a matchup to watch out for. And even if Old Man River starts, he's coming off injury so he probably won't be 100%.

Cesare Prandelli v Luciano Spalletti:
Despite being in different competitions - Roma in the Champs League and Fiorentina in the slightly retarded red-headed stepchild UEFA Cup - both had Euro fixtures last Wednesday, making it the 3rd game in 1 week and 4th in 10 days. So both will be featuring reinforcements, the question who can bring in the right reinforcements and use his substitutions wisely. Both teams will be battling some degree of fatigue and both gaffers will have their hands full. It'll be an overlooked matchup, but this is an intellectual battle of two of the best Serie A has to offer (surprisingly, Roberto Mancini isn't on that list).

Doni v Sebastian Frey:
Which Doni will show up? Who the hell knows. On the other side Frey is one of the most underrated goalkeepers in Serie A, maybe even Europe, and has reflexes that would make a cat green with envy. Both teams have significant firepower, and both keeps will probably get their fair share of shots on goal. Needless to say, both will be looking forward to the final whistle. Which brings up....

Roma v The Magnetic Forcefield Around The Goal:
What's going on? Is there some sort of magnetic force around the goal mouth, preventing the ball from sailing towards the back of the net? Because it's starting to look that way. For a team like Roma, who has absolutely no issues whatsoever creating scoring opportunities, their finishing is deplorable (I feel like Pfizer should come up with a cure for this - or cancer, whichever comes first). Like if your name isn't Alberto Aquilani or Francesco Totti, then getting a ball on net takes an act of God. Or a ref changing a call. Oh wait, that's Juventus.

David Pizarro v Riccardo Montolivo:
If Little David starts, this is my greatest worry: allowing Montolivo to create from space in the middle of the pitch. There's a reason why this kid is called The New Totti (along with Andrea Russotto and 1100 other kids in the peninsula), and it's because he's better than good, he's phenomenal. David hasn't played much and has a tendency to leave enough green in the back end for a helicopter to land in central midfield, which could be a disaster. If DDR starts pushing towards The Roman Clusterfuck and leaves David to defend, Riccardo will make Roma pay. Hopefully this isn't the case.

Mirko Vucinic

This is it, the first real test this year for the future legend himself. Based on the system and everything Totti does for the team, it's clear Mirko isn't going to come close to replicating Totti's impact on the game. However, can he score a goal or two? Absolutely. He's been playing out on the left to start the year, but he is first and foremost a primo punta and hopefully that shines through during this game. Mirko is a goal-poacher, so it's tough to ask him to drop back and distribute the ball a la Francesco as the runs fly past him, but I think we'll see this aspect dramatically improved since last season. All in all, he bags goals - including 3 in his last 3 games for Montenegro - and he will shine in his chance as the lone striker up top.

The other question is what happens in the event that Mirko either gets hurt or is wildly ineffective. The first thought is for Lulu Gulu to push up and allow for either King Alberto or Matteo Brighi to come in and replace him in the trequartista spot. Another possibility is Mancini, who will probably start the game, but doesn't seem to either a) be able to play the full 90, or b) have the trust from TGIP to play the full 90 yet. Obvious scenarios which are hopefully all avoided, but there is no lack of options. Adequate? No clue, apart from Mancini.

And to make anyone nervous about Mirko feel a little bit better, the 19 goals from 04-05...

(That, my friends, is a nose for goal. Forza Mirko)

Gameplay


(Disclaimer: As much as I would have liked to, I still have not seen Fiorentina play this year so I could be off base)


Roma Attacking/Fiorentina Defending:

The loss of Francesco completely changes things, and it may actually make the game a little faster. Fiorentina isn't going to play for a draw at home, so this should be an exciting game between two teams who have no problem getting up on the attack. One of Fiorentina's biggest problems last year was an inability to control the midfield, and the ball was threaded very easily from the opposition's back four to the front line. No midfield destroyers to speak of, and this will inhibit Fiorentina's ability to close down on balls pin-balling through the midfield and then up to The Roman Clusterfuck. Roma's strength? Exactly that, which makes Roma on the attack very much a gladiator advantage, even without the presence of Il Capitano. Fiorentina's back line is good, but not good enough to contain Roma's front line, even if there are a few "backups" in there. Advantage: Roma

Fiorentina Attacking/Roma Defending:

Roma had a stellar start to the year in front of their own goal up until last weekend, but that doesn't make Fiorentina any less dangerous. The attacking fearsome foursome of Mutu, Pazzini, Semioli and Montolivo will give the entire back four fits all day, and will certainly have their fair share of chances on goal. Fiorentina played with a good amount of width from what I saw last year, sending the ball into Luca Toni with regularity and allowing him to do what he does so well - score goals. Pazzini plays to different attributes and thus different situations, but Roma is so strong in the middle from Philou, Juan or Ferrari up to DDR and King Alberto (if both play) that the Viola may be resigned to getting the ball wide and attacking predominantly from there. (There's also Bobo, who has kinda-sorta rejuvenated his career to a degree, and brings another added dimension to the squad.)

My main worry in the game is what I said above, Riccardo Montolivo and the havoc he can wreak, notably if David is sitting tight in midfield. If this is the case, the instances where he is either able to get free or take on Pizarro will be more than a little bit of trouble for the boys. I'm confident with the ability to close down that front line, especially Max Tonetto & Juan/Ferrari on Semioli and the duo in central midfield, but Montolivo is a big worry. Right now it's hard to decide who the advantage goes to, in fact it should be a back and forth tug of war, so I'll go with Push. (Yeah, I'm fence-sitting, guess what? I don't care)

Predictions

Overall, I think the inability of anyone to contain Roma's attacking life with make itself present once again, and the influx of a couple new faces will hopefully change around those fortunes when it comes to finding the back of the net. I think Mancini may surprise and show that last week's inability to finish was a fluke, and put a goal in at some point. Same goes for Mirko, who you know is just itching to get back to his goal-scoring machine ways. In the end, it will be a tough game, but I think Roma will at least take a point, and most likely 3, but only by a goal. However, if Roma can start finishing not like, well, Roma, then it may be an entirely different case. The midfield should be Roma's all day, they just have to be smart and play the full 90.

Score: 2-1 Roma
Goals: Montolivo (37), Mancini (54), Vucinic (72)
MOTM:
Good Doni

Where: Stadio Artemio Franchi, Firenze
When: 20:45 Italian Time
US TV: Fox Sports Channel, 2:30 ET (Drop off any more listings in the comment threads if you have em)
Streaming: Here.
Gianni's Fiorentina preview.



FORZA ROMA