Roma - Catania
This one's bound to bring back some memories. The last time the Sicilians travelled to the Olimpico, we witnessed some of The Grand Imperial Poobah's Roma at its very finest. Scoring goals ad nauseam en route to a 7-0 victory. (Did you like that seamless transition from Latin to French? I thought I was an asshole for doing it, and left it up to prove my assholeness to you. Yes, that's a word.) It also marked what may be the day of Vincenzo Montella's final Serie A goal for Roma. A bittersweet moment without question. I've sorta refused to deal with the whole "Montella moves to Sampdoria" thing (it's been what, like 6 months now?) because I hold out some delusional hope he'll be given a hero's run out onto the pitch in official competition once again before he finally rides off into the calcio sunset.
I actually see parallels to the Vincenzo Montella and Roma situation with my unborn child, were I to have it right now. Skirt the issue, pretend like it's not there, send payments every so often to keep it elsewhere, hope someday it would return for like a glorious 90 minutes only to leave for his yet-to-be-determined mother for the rest of his life. (I feel like there's a pickup line somewhere in there. "Hi, I'm Chris, and someday I'm going to be an absentee father"...I need to go to bed.)
Alright, back to Catania. I'm tempted to say that this season's Catania is a far cry from last year's edition, but for those who forget, Catania was 4th (yes, FOURTH) in Serie A after 20 games last season, and only then did they start a nosedive which only Val Kilmer's career could be proud of (Comanche Moon? Really? Did he miss Doc?). Yeah, the Calciopoli penalties played their part, but still, being in 4th for a team which hadn't been in the top flight for 20 some odd years is nothing short of awesome. They topped off this lovely feel good story by fighting the relegation battle right until the very last weekend of the season, and it took a 2-0 victory over Chievo to send the yellow ones down to the dungeons. So Catania may be better, I think they are, but I'm still holding off judgment. You never know what will happen if Giuseppe Mascara is caught snorting coke off Gianatha Spinesi's bare buttocks in the locker room one evening. (Feel free to visualize that. Seriously. Go ahead.)
I'm sure I don't need to mention this, but everyone in the stands, watching on TV, and especially those patrolling the sidelines will be eyeing up juicy transfer nugget of the past few months Juan Manuel Vargas, who scored the most phenomenal of goals over the weekend against Milan (below). Actually, I find it ironic that Seedorf scored a nearly identical goal with the other foot against Shakhtar earlier this season. How do you like a little bit of your own medicine, Milan? Not so much, do ya? Do ya?
Anywho, Vargas is good. Great, even. He's also vicious, and given the fact that Roma has been replaced by men made from straw and twine this season, I'm frightened somebody's going to walk away - or not walk away - with a lengthy spell up in the stands, getting nonsexual groin massages regularly.
The other story, or maybe nonstory, is whether or not we'll finally get to see some lengthy King Alberto action. And by lengthy, I mean start. And by start, I mean I'd rather not see David Pizarro on the field this weekend, at least for my own sanity. From the reports of the game, Pizaman was feeding donations to the charity that is the feet of Torino FC all day on Wednesday. Roma doesn't need that, thank you very much.
Catania is really a hometown team. They perform very well in the cozy confines of Sicily, but away from home...50 pounds bags of cow shit start flying towards a ginormous fan. Check out their last half dozen games with 3 of each:
2-0 L @ Napoli
3-1 W Palermo
2-0 L @ Lazio (Seriously, if they lose to the orphaned baby slappers at the Olimpico...)
2-0 W Udinese
3-1 L @ Reggina
1-1 D Juventus
We know about the last one. How in the hell they managed to allow 3 goals to a Reggina team which had scored a whole nine goals in total before that day is well beyond me. Nine. That's bad. Atrocious even.
As you can see quite clearly, they have collective homesickness. Sounds good to me. Forza Olimpico.
None, though Old Man River and Old Man Max are out, presumably to scout nursing homes for their impending arrivals. (Too many cards, but the other one is plausible.) Unfortunately, Christian won't be able to recreate his exploits of last season.
And of course Ahmed is in Ghana, doing African things. Feel free to log that one into your memories until February 10th or so (Cameroon v Ghana final, you heard it here first).
Cicinho, Mexes, Juan, Cassetti;
Taddei, Perrotta, Mancini;
Three spots I see up for question:
i) iTunes could start, pushing Cassetti over to RB, but I just don't see it happening.
ii) King or David? Please, for the love of Jebus....
iii) Lulu Gulu is riding the hot hand, and Spal may want to see him start out on the pitch. If iTunes gets the run, we could see Lulu at RW, or see him start for Simone. I doubt either seriously, so feel free to engrave Giuly into marble in your lineups.
Silvestri, Terlizzi, Sottil, Vargas;
Edusei, Izco, Baiocco;
Mascara, Spinesi, Martinez.
They'll almost definitely go with the 4-3-3, they've gone with it nearly the entire season.
Cicinho v Juan Manuel Vargas: Considering it's highly likely Cicinho will be starting, this is going to be one of the biggest matchups, not just because of Vargas, but because whichever forward is over there is going to require some attention as well. Double duty for Cicinho, meaning Taddei is going to have to give a helluva lot of help on defense. Then, Vargas can beat even the best of defenders all by his lonesome. And even if he doesn't beat him, he can shoot accurately from distance at some pretty improbable angles. Yikes. Let's hope Cicinho plays his part in an offensive recreation of last year; allowing Vargas to beat him all he wants...then swap shirts with Cicinho and keeps walking right into the Roma locker room to sign his new deal.
Back Four v Jorge Martinez, Gionatha Spinesi & Giuseppe Mascara: They aren't exactly the most feared tridente the world has ever seen, but they're pretty decent and can work off the wings together well, in the minimal sample I've had this season. However, even though they can move the ball well and find space for themselves or teammates, they don't finish well, despite the nice talent of another Roma target in Martinez. In Serie A this season they've scored more than one goal four (count 'em) times, one of which was against Palermo in the Sicilian derby, and I think we all know what derbies mean (everything out the window), and 3 of those were at home; the other was against Parma, whose D can resemble cheese of the Swiss variety at times. This is a battle Roma should win, especially at home. If these three start finishing, it means Roma is in serious trouble.
Simone's Body v Simone's Feet: The man is a true gift to this team; he runs his ass off, disrupts, does all the little role playing, slightly unclean things that go unnoticed or unappreciated. The problem is he does it in a position which sees him get beaucoup chances on goal, a position designed for that sort of thing, and he has feet which have been bronzed way too early in his career. He had another chance planted before him like a drunken sorority girl fresh of a breakup against Atalanta, except he missed the target from short distance (hey, it happens), and thus another sitter miss was born. One of these days he's going to hit a hot streak and start scoring like Carlos Estevez circa the entire 80's decade (that's Charlie Sheen's real name for those of you whose minds contain more important knowledge than mine). Please, let's start now. (And a little bit of last year's footwork would be stupendous.)
Catania v The Ghost of Olimpico Past: Roma proved this year you can overcome devastating losses mentally. Now it's up to Catania. And in case you'd forgotten what happened, here's a little reminder:
Catania can play some fairly open football, which could come back to bite them in the ass, especially with an en fuego Totti scoring at least one a game these days. Most teams know that when you have an inferior squad, the way to beat Roma is to compact and not allow space to work the ball on the ground and try to force them to beat you off of set pieces. From what I've seen, that's not Catania's style, and that spells disaster for them away from home. I can't predict a repeat of last year's game, or even Wednesday, but this should be a comfortable and exciting victory to wrap up the first half.
Having predicted the three goal scorers correctly, scoreline and that Totti would score in the 61st (which I never thought would happen, honestly; though I do have like a 1/90 or 1/45 chance these days with his form), I thought about quitting the predictions because I've summited the mountain - along with selling all of my predictions and moving to Tibet. But I'm going to truck on, as I go back to swinging and missing like Mighty Casey to your delight. This weekend: Totti for the triple! as he makes his assault for number 300...by next May. (Don't doubt him.)
Score: 3-0 Roma
Goals: Totti (6), Totti (47), Totti (69)
MOTM: Frrrrrrrrrrancesco - with an honorable mention to Carlo Zampa, who will surely go completely bananas in sensational form should Jesus hat trick.
Mancini "Give-A-Shit-Factor": 8.5 - still playing for that contract.
King Alberto Sighting: 1
When: 1500 CET, 0900 EST
Where: Stadio Olimpico
Forecast: 16°C, sunny. Gorgeous.