It seems like it's been eternity since Roma last stepped on the pitch against Sampdoria, with Totti being Totti and Roma getting a huge victory after the suckitude of weeks previous. So they travel up to Bergamo, ready to take on Atalanta who will be with the captain and goalscoring midfielder extraordinaire, Cristiano Doni, who did mean things and was given a timeout by The Powers That Is. Ditto for Ricky Zamps, who is down in Serie B doing second rate things and Simone Inzaghi, who is still being a skeevier, less productive version of his brother. (I think that's the greatest compliment I've ever given Pippo, which really isn't all that much of a compliment.)
Big news is that King Alberto returns, stacking that central midfield again. Though it still remains to be seen how much pitch time they'll see. KA did play a full 90 in a friendlyscrimmage, but that doesn't mean he's got the match fitness ready for an away trip to a top half club in Serie A. He did train during the holidays instead of taking time off (what a stud), but it just ain't the same. If I were a betting man, which I am, I'd say we're looking at a late game run if the weather cooperates. Expect The Grand Imperial Poobah to take out the kiddie gloves. (Still praying for a start though.)
Hard to know what to expect, because both teams are coming off extended breaks, but from what we've seen so far this season, Roma hasn't exactly lit the world on fire the week after an extended break:
9/26 2-0 Reggina
10/20 4-4 Napoli
11/24 1-0 Genoa
Reggina wasn't vintage Roma, Napoli was nice attacking, craptastic D, and Genoa needed Old Man River to steal victory from the jaws of sister kissing. So with three weeks out, and some of that spent not doing football things, it's hard to expect a team firing on 11 cylinders. Luckily, we can probably expect the same the other Nerazzuri.
Last Domestic 5
I don't think this one matters at much right now, but you can see Atalanta has been struggling to score goals without Doni, who is finishing a 3 game suspension this weekend, and Zampagna, who has been frozen out of the squad since throwing haymakers at Luigi Del Neri in training (or something). However, that one win was a 5-1 spanking of Napoli, so they're more than capable of the odd game of brilliance, and the 3 losses were to Inter, Juve and Palermo. Which means - Roma should win, but it's not going to be easy by any stretch.
BERTAGNOLI Julio Sergio
DE ROSSI Daniele
Coppola, Forsyth, Capelli, Carrozzieri, Bellini, Belleri, Manfredini, Pellegrino, De Ascentis, Guarente, Bernardini, Tissone, Ferreira Pinto, Padoin, Langella, Muslimovic, Defendi, Marconi e Floccari.
Marco Cassetti, Mirko Vucinic and Ludovic Giuly have all been left at home for various reasons which I'm not seeing, and I'm guessing aren't all that big of deal or else I'd have been slapped in the face with it. Also, Marco Andreolli is still waiting for his own little miracle, and Ahmed Barusso is at the African Cup of Nations doing African stuff.
Panucci, Mexes, Juan, Tonetto;
De Rossi, Pizarro;
Taddei, Perrotta, Mancini;
Probably the standard, unless either King Alberto is ready or Spalletti fell on his head and throws Cicinho into the starting XI.
Belleri, , Capelli, Carrozzieri, Bellini;
Pinto, Guarente, De Ascentis, Langella;
As with most opponents, just a guess. But they'll most likely put out a 4-4-2.
Roma v Lombardy?: While the fellas suck ass in Tuscany, they seem to be much more productive way up north, at least so far this season. Playing twice in Milan and taking deserved 1-0 victories both times. Maybe Lombardy is a true home away from home.
Roma's Guns v Atalanta's Impotence:
This one's simple. These are Atalanta's top six goal scorers this season:
Cristian Doni 7
Antonio Langella 4
Riccardo Zampagna 3
Adriano Pinto 1
Daniele Capelli 1
Moris Carrozzieri 1
One of these things is not like the other.............
Philou & Juan v Sergio Floccari: This one isn't so much a "matchup" as it is "if Philou & Juan lose this one, head between the knees - disaster imminent". Floccari has been starting up top since November, has played 12 games in total and has scored two goals, one during that Napoli aberration. They don't have much firepower. He's not that good. If he starts to do things, even scores a goal, this team is in serious trouble.
Roma v The Weather: It's supposed to be cold and rainy and snowy and rainy and snow and cold. Absolutely the last conditions you want playing a team which will want to stifle Roma's free flowing attack and grounded footy. It could be a recreation of either Kyiv or Livorno.
Mancini v Mancini: For some reason, I'm feeling a motivated and on form Mancini on Sunday. I don't know why. Despite all the distractions and talks of fish & chips, he is a difference maker on any team, and they could use some of his Houdini this time. (The magic, not the disappearing act.)
Poor weather + three weeks off + less than loaded Atalanta = sloppiness. I really don't expect this to be any sort of recruitment video for the beautiful game. If anything, it'll be more reminiscent of Prem football. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly. But with Atalanta missing some key ingredients, Roma for the win (close).
Score: 2-1 Roma
Goals: Mancini (31), Totti (57), Pinto (78)
Mancini "Give-A-Shit-Factor": 9.5
King Alberto Sighting: 79
When: 1500 CET, 0900 EST
Where: Atleti Azzurri d'Italia, Bergamo
Forecast: 6°C, snow/rain.