Last Wednesday evening, around 9:30 Italian time (I think), things on the Coppa side of town looked pretty dire to say the very least. It was halftime and the score was nil-nil, with Torino leaing 3-1 on aggregate. Flash forward 45 minutes and Torino was walking off the field as though they were walking to the gallows. Somehow. Someway.
So here we are. More Coppa action. But most importantly we finally get to see Antonio Cassano lace them up against his former brethren for the first ever time. Kind of like a preview for the real game, next Wednesday, when he makes his return to the Stadio Olimpico. I think he'll score, for some reason (could be because he's still Talentino), but given all his love sonnets in the presses directed towards Rome, I kinda doubt he'll celebrate. Which would be some gesture, especially for him. (Though we'll stop short of saying he'll deliver blubbering ode a la Rui Costa.) And I don't care how you feel about his exit, next Wednesday is going to be one of the most anticipated and memorable Coppa Italia quarterfinal fixtures you'll ever see. At one point, we all loved him (most everybody, anyway).
Anybody who has anything to do with Roma is suffering from the dreaded "flu-like" symptoms, which includes both myself and His Francesconess (and that's where the comparisons end, sadly). He'll find himself back in Rome for the game, along with Juan and Simone Perrotta. This has nothing to do with the game, but I need to say it: I feel like Juan has some sort of secret martial arts expertise - even if he doesn't know it. I don't know why, but I think he's the Brazilian Chuck Norris. Moving on....
So yeah, big game, but if the game two weeks ago was an indication, Roma has a serious edge over two legs. Yeah, they were without Talentino, but he won't help that back line, and Roma proved this weekend playing without Totti ain't no thang. (Actually, it's a huge thang, but they can do it without him.)
BERTAGNOLI Julio Sergio
DE ROSSI Daniele
Portieri. Castellazzi, Mirante.
Difensori. Accardi, Campagnaro, Gastaldello, Lucchini, Sala.
Centrocampisti. Delvecchio, Franceschini, Maggio, Palombo, Pieri, Poli, Volpi, Zenoni, Ziegler.
Attaccanti. Bellucci, Bonazzoli, Caracciolo, Cassano.
Jesus, Simone and The Brazilian Chuck Norris are out. Marco Andreolli has also disappeared from the squad list again, which is lovely. Must say, I've got really high hopes for this kid... (I don't think for a second the Inter doctors were oblivious to his back situation.)
On the Samp side, L'Aeroplanino will also have to wait for a hero's welcome back home.
Panucci, Mexes, Ferrari, Tonetto;
Taddei, Giuly, Mancini;
There are so many questions here it's insane. Yes, it's the Coppa, but the path has been paved to the finals in the bracket, and we know The Grand Imperial Poobah would love nothing more than to defend his title at home in May. So I bet we'll see Spal unload the arsenal. Questions:
• Curci or Doni? It doesn't look like Gilu is going out on loan and this kid's gotta have some time. I say Curci gets the run out for the away leg and then we see Doni again in case shit hits the fan, a la Torino.
• The revolving door that is RB. I can totally see Cassetti on the wing with either OMR or Cicinho in behind him. But I'll guess Spal uses OMR's Genoa days as motivation for him to take down the old rival.
• iTunes and Tonetto? iTunes or Tonetto? As with Cassetti, Tonetto at LW and Mancini at RW wouldn't surprise me in the least.
• King Alberto will start! Per Spalletti. The big decision will now be this weekend, where there are probably enough considerations for multiple volumes here.
• Taddei was awesome over the weekend, but if he's still under the weather, there's little reason to risk him for the weekend. They've got Cassetti available as well as the possibility of seeing Espo (I know, snowball's chance in hell).
Campagnaro, Gastaldello, Accardi;
Maggio, Delvecchio, Palombo, Franceschini, Pieri;
I cut and pasted. I don't care.
Antonio Cassano v Roma:
Talentino missed the Juventus game, but there's no war in hell he's missing two games in a row against Roma, even if this one is in Genoa. I don't even need to explain this one. Everyone knows Cassano, better than the fans of any other team. He's still Antonio Cassano, one of the most gifted players in the world. Tuck your head between your legs and pray.
And I don't care about anything else. That's the matchup. I'll have one eye on him, one eye on the ball throughout the entire game. Hell, I may just have both eyes on him. Partly because he is far and away the best talent Sampdoria has, partly because I'm still a huge fan who knows deep down something is not right, and I'm not sure he can help his emotional self. I'm not sure I can blame him. He was an ass. The team is/was better off without him (right now), and we've moved on. But watching him in red & yellow was something else entirely: special.
As much as it sucks to play yet another game without His Greatness, I can't help but feel like this is setting up to be the perfect situation next week when Sampdoria comes to the Olimpico for the return leg. Totti v Cassano, in front of the tifosi at home. Could we ask for more?
(I'm knocking on wood profusely so everyone stays healthy until then.)
Score: 2-1 Roma
Goals: Mexes (28), Cassano (37), Vucinic (61)
Mancini "Give-A-Shit-Factor": 7
When: 1630 CET, 1230 EST
Where: Luigi Ferraris, Genoa
Forecast: 4°C, clear.
Liveblog: I'll be here, livoblogging the game as long as the Chinese streams decide not to switch to blank screens with Sean Kingston soundtracks again.