No more cheaters. No more Viola. This is The Game of the campaign for me (give me a call when Lazio at least gets a whiff of mediocrity and we can discuss it). In case you haven't noticed - or have the intellectual capabilities of bird shit - I hate Inter. HATE Inter. I hate Moratti. I hate Mancini. I hate Zanetti. I hate Figo. I hate Stankovic. I hate Cambiasso. I hate Vieira. I hate blue. I hate black. I hate Pirelli. I hate the San Siro. I fucking hate Inter. I have since well before I was a Roma fan. I hated them well before Chivugate. I hated them well before those two asterisked trophies for Calcio Honesty. I hate them. I hate them. I hate them.
(No real logical explanation, but as I'm sure you all know by now, I don't need one)
More than Inter itself, though, is the return of that Romanian defender who used to ply his trade at the Olimpico - when he wasn't hurt, that is. Now? He's hurt (obviously). He's been called out by his own management twice. The first time by Massima Moratti when he got the injury and the second time by Roberto Mancini when he laid down the ultimatum: play at Roma, or else (or else what nobody knows). I guess we'll find out that 'or else' soon enough, because Chivu will be watching the game from the stands, where I'm sure he'll feel more than comfortable. I also suspect we'll have to wait until 08-09 to see Chivu make it onto the pitch against his "small obstacle". That means Cordoba slots into the back line. Francesco must be licking his lips.
Speaking of Francesco's lips, they will be back on the field, ready to resume their thumb-sucking ways as he continues letting everyone know in Europe who is boss (he is, duh). 5 goals in the last 4 games and a full week of rest since his last brace. Simone Perrotta will be back as well, but he seems to suffer some sort of allergic reaction when he gets near the goal mouth forcing him to involuntarily knock the ball towards Pluto. Nevertheless, The Human Pinball will without a doubt make his presence known, and maybe Inter's last trip to the Olimpico will jog that old muscle memory (still holding out for Catania, though).
No matter who plays, though, this game will be huge. Zlatan, I mean Inter, is tied for first place with Roma, and a win by either team will be a large leap. A draw probably relegates both to looking up towards the summit with a few teams just a point behind. Roma has, shall we say, done well against Inter in recent times, with 3 victories in 2007 alone, and taking two trophies out of their hands in the process. So, yeah, big game.
1. Roma 3-0-2 11pts (+7)
2. Inter 3-0-2 11pts (+7)
3. Juventus* 3-1-1 10pts (+8)
4. Napoli 3-1-1 10pts (+6)
5. Palermo 3-1-1 10pts (+2)
6. Fiorentina 2-0-3 9pts (+3)
7. Atalanta 2-0-3 9pts (+3)
8. Udinese 2-21 7pts (-2)
9. Milan 1-1-3 6pts (+2)
Roma: Antunes, Aquilani, Barusso, Bertagnoli, Brighi, Curci, Cicinho, De Rossi, Doni, Esposito, Ferrari, Giuly, Juan, Mancini, Mexes, Panucci, Perrotta, Pit, Pizarro, Tonetto, Totti e Vucinic.
Baby Slappers: Toldo, Julio Cesar, Orlandoni; Cordoba, Maxwell, Burdisso, Samuel; Zanetti, Stankovic, Figo, Dacourt, Cambiasso, Solari, Pelè, Cesar; Ibrahimovic, Cruz, Adriano, Crespo, Suazo.
Yes, you're seeing that correctly. 4 defenders listed. With 17 defensive mids and 12 strikers.
Roma: Taddei and Marco Cassetti are out, and while both are significant contributors, both can be replaced relatively easily, especially this year. Barusso and Andreolli are still out, but both had as good a chance of playing as my grandmother. The big question is whether or not King Alberto will be ready and able to suit up, as he's listed under doubtful. I suspect he'll at least be sitting on the bench, but maybe TGIP feels he needs one game of rest, and David Pizarro would certainly be a better option against Inter rather than ManYoo.
Inter: Lots of 'em. Lots and lots. Including Chivu. Outside of that, I really don't care.
Panucci, Mexes, Juan, Tonetto;
De Rossi, Pizarro;
Giuly, Perrotta, Mancini;
Two questions remain:
i) Old Man River or Cicinho? I strongly believe we'll see Panucci. No complaints.
ii) Will King Alberto be ready? I guess we'll find out Saturday night.
Burdisso, Samuel, Cordoba, Maxwell;
Figo, Cambiasso, Stankovic, Zanetti;
Just a guess, and with the tactical ingenuity of Roberto Mancini, it will be just that until the lineups are announced. But be assured you will see a lineup which probably makes no fucking sense whatsoever.
Zlatan v Gravity: You know there is one player at Inter I can't get enough of. This weekend? Not so much. The guy is setting the world on fire right now, and there hasn't been a damn thing defenses can do to get him back down to earth (See: his 2nd goal v Sampdoria). Inter hasn't faced a back line like Roma's since, well, Roma in the SuperDuperCoppa, but that was the first game of the season and he still got his chances on net while not yet into his stride. Philou and J-Smooth will earn every single euro they get this weekend.
TGIP's Frontline v Mancini's 72 Men Behind the Ball: A genius versus a man who doesn't have the intellectual capacity to manage a McDonalds. So, what will Mancio do? Most likely play an eight man back line and hope his two strikers can get a goal to squeak out a result. Inter hasn't had all that much success this year, despite their record. Roma has, and despite their inability to finish off opponents and bag goals galore (or Sebastian Frey standing in the way), they create chance after chance after chance. It'll be much different from the Super Coppa, and I fully expect Mancio to park the team bus in front of the goal. The big question will be if Roma can create enough space between the midfield and back four to allow for some front line runs, flicks and simple chances on goal.
Simone Perrotta v Himself: Can he finish? He has to, because he'll get a least a couple good chances on goal, and Roma really needs to start capitalizing and putting teams away, or else this team will struggle to stay in contention. Lulu Gulu has turned the finishing corner, let's hope Simone is next in line.
Skill v Power: In case you hadn't noticed, Inter isn't exactly teeming over with Cavaliers (or ballerinos) and finesse players. They're physical, they're beefy and they like coming up strong from the back, just how Moratti likes it. Roma? Not so much. A lot of Brazilian flair, cheeky moves, smoke and mirrors, talent, deft passes, dummies and any other way around the defense rather than through. I expect Roma to win beaucoup free kicks this game, especially with that craptastic South American back line Inter will be so gloriously throwing out there (2 Argies, 1, Brazilian, and 1 Colombian - who knew?). At the Olimpico, this advantage is clear to Roma right now. During the game? Who knows.
Inter v Italians: Will any Italians get in for Inter? One? Just one? Come on Mancini, just give in already.
Push up. Bounce off Inter team bus. Zlatan counter attack. Stop Zlatan. Push ball up. Bounce off team bus. Zlatan counter attack. Stop Zlatan. Push ball up. Sneak through window on team bus. Totti goal. Run to Curva Sud. Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!
Blah. I really have the feeling Mancini is going to pull the same tactics as the Super Coppa, putting 12 men behind the ball and hoping one of his strikers can single-handedly score and win a result. Not exactly the greatest of blueprints, but when Zlatan is as on fire as he is at the moment, it's hard to fault it, because he has been single-handedly winning them points. The problem is he hasn't been doing so against Roma caliber teams - more like mid-table teams and relegation fodder (that's you, Livorno).
The way I see it, there are two possible outcomes: either this is a hard-fought close game, a la the Super Coppa, or Roma pulls a Coppa Final and runs away with it. I really don't see an Inter blowout, they just don't have enough creativity outside of Ibrahimovich's one man traveling show. Inter's weakness is that back four, missing Maicon because he felt it prudent to turn into the Nutcracker all of a sudden, amongst others, and will have their hands more than full. Cordoba? Eh. The Artist Formerly Known As The Wall is in a toss-up situation. He could start channeling his old Olimpico days, or he could crumble. Either way, I suspect the Cordoba and the old boy will have trouble containing Francesco. In other, related news, the sky is blue.
As for Roma, the return of Totti & Simone will be nothing short of huge, even though Lulu Gulu and King Alberto did well filling in along the front line on Wednesday. All four front line attackers, including LG and Mancini, will be working that offside trap and back line all game long looking for time and space, and the difference between this game and the Fiorentina game will be Francesco's ability to pinpoint passes onto the foot of an onrushing Roman attacker (Mirko did well, but he's no Totti). That alone should give Cesar fits, because after that he will then have to deal with the captain himself. The lack of form and cohesion in Inter's backline will most likely be the deciding factor in this game, because we know Roma will get their chances. I can absolutely see Roma pushing, pushing and then pushing some more on that back four before breaking through and putting a couple goals past Cesar late in the first half.
Score: 3-0 Roma
Goals: Mancini (37), Totti (44), De Rossi (70)
Chivu: Tears his Achilles making his way up to his seat in the stands and misses the remainder of the season (Chivu doing what he does best at Inter....posing for pictures with those stupid looks on his face - page 9)
When: Saturday, September 29th, 18:00 Roman Time
Where: Stadio Olimpico, Rome, home of the greatest club in the world
US TV: FSC, 2:30 EST (delay - avoid the interwebs like the plague from noon to 2:30)