Roma v Real Madrid
And here we are. The biggest, most hugest, most ginormousest game of the season. A game which, after the weekend's shenanigans, may come to define the season. Luckily it's against The Club of the Century, because Roma couldn't use a game against Shitastic FC right about now. No siree.
Quite frankly, having enjoyed the great displeasure of watching our fair Giallorossi over these last few weeks, the only confidence I currently have rides solely with the man, the myth, the legend....Daniele De Rossi. He is the only player who - week in, week out - shows up with a world class performance in his back pocket, ready to piggyback the hopes of La Magica.
DDR is a glorious gift which has been bestowed upon Rome, but unfortunately he isn't enough, and he'll never be enough against Real Madrid - regardless of what type of superhuman performance he decides to dust off for the occasion. They need more. Much more.
They need Francesco Totti.
This prolonged stretch of ineffectiveness is unlike Il Grande Capitano. And I'm not even talking about goals or deft back-heeled lollipops onto the swinging peg of Simone Perrotta. I just mean getting touches on the ball, being active in play, making the announced say his name, whatever. It's been a Houdini act over the last month, seemingly, and all we can assume is that it's an accumulation of all the sicknesses and injuries.
I dare say, if we see the same Francesco that we've seen for the last month, the game is a steep climb uphill. They can more than manage without him, but if he's as he's been, they need another body to provide a different look and thus some productivity. Therefore, this game requires a vintage performance from one Francesco Totti. There is no question he will be the best talent on the pitch, what matters is whether he lives up to the billing or not.
Aside from Il Capitano, the biggest determining factor will be patrolling the sidelines, not getting upset when things go awry, and hoping to dole out a congratulatory ass slap or eleven when the final whistle goes. Luciano Spalletti is in the midst of one of his runs which have the tifosi looking around wide-eyed, thinking silently "what the @#$% is he doing?". The three most important factors - team mentality, lack of consistent rotation and lack of tactical flexibility - can be changed overnight, but there are a few areas which could use a band-aid ASAP.
1. David Pizarro has to be dropped immediately. Quite frankly, Roma can't afford to make up for his shortcomings if he fails to show up with a good performance in tow. King Alberto at least provides fewer mistakes, and won't make nearly the same number of donations to the Galactico Charitable Foundation as DP inevitably would.
B. Something needs to be done involving the LB/RW situation. Max Tonetto and Taddei have joined the Legion of Ineffective Giallorossi lately, and really don't appear to be bringing a whole bunch to the table. Max we'll excuse because he's played 35,759 minutes this season (see: lack of rotation). Maybe dropping Taddei to the bench in favor of Marco Cassetti's pace and workrate would be a positive move. Or maybe buying Juan Manuel Vargas last month would be a positive move.
3. If Simone Perrotta can't finish (and he starts), he has to come off ASAP. Yes, he provides a lot for the spine of the formation, but Roma needs to score during the home leg. Ludovicious Giulius appears to be the better option attacking at this point. But we'd gladly take a hat trick from Simone. He's about due.
Other than that, things look peachy.
Group Stage Results
Dynamo Kyiv 2-0
@ ManYoo 0-1
@ Sporting 2-2
@ Dynamo Kyiv 4-1
Werder Bremen 2-1
@ Lazio 2-2
@ Olypiakos 0-0
@ Werder Bremen 2-3
As you can see, the home leg, Real's away leg, is the time to jump on them. I mean, shit, they drew with Lazio, which is about as low as it gets for a Champions League Final hopeful.
CHRISTIAN PANUCCI 2
CICERO JOAO DE CEZARE (CICINHO) 3
JUAN SILVEIRA DOS SANTOS 4
PHILIPPE MEXES 5
DAVID MARCELO CORTES PIZARRO 7
ALBERTO AQUILANI 8
MIRKO VUCINIC 9
FRANCESCO TOTTI 10
RODRIGO FERRANTE TADDEI 11
LUDOVIC GIULY 14
VITORINO GABRIEL PACHECO ANTUNES 15
DANIELE DE ROSSI 16
MAURO ESPOSITO 18
SIMONE PERROTTA 20
MATTEO FERRARI 21
MAX TONETTO 22
CARLO ZOTTI 25
ADRIAN FLORIN PIT 26
JULIO SERGIO BERTAGNOLI 27
MANCINI ALESSANDRO FAIOLHE AMANTINO 30
DONIEBER ALEXANDER MARANGON (DONI) 32
MATTEO BRIGHI 33
MARCO CASSETTI 77
Porteros: Casillas, Dudek y Codina.
Defensas: Cannavaro, Ramos, Heinze, Miguel Torres y Salgado.
Centrocampistas: Guti, Gago, Diarra, Robben, Balboa y Drenthe.
Delanteros: Raúl, Van Nistelrooy, Higuaín, Baptista y Soldado.
Gianluca Curci, and that is all. Health couldn't have come at a better time.
Pepe, Metzelder, Robinho, Sneijder, Saviola y Marcelo. Do I need to say any more? That's a big list, which will probably help Roma out immensely.
Real's Last Three Formations
1-2 L Real Betis:
Salgado, Cannavaro, Ramos, Marcelo;
Baptista, Gago, Guti;
Robben, Raul, Drenthe.
7-0 W Valladolid:
Salgado, Cannavaro, Ramos, Marcelo;
Gago, Guti, Baptista;
Robinho, Raul, Robben.
0-2 L Almeria:
Salgado, Cannavaro, Ramos, Torres;
Guti, Diarra, Sneijder;
Raul, RvN, Robinho.
As you can see, the injuries have impacted matters a lil bit.
Cicinho, Juan, Mexes, Cassetti;
Taddei, Perrotta, Mancini;
So here goes:
• Seeing as how this game is at home and Madrid is missing some ammo, starting Cicinho, the most dynamic defender on the field, makes a lot of sense. Plus, they'll likely have blazing speed on the lefthand side with Robben. Cicinho can at least chase him down. (Shooting high, I know.)
• Given David Pizarro's performance on Saturday and preceding "knock", there is absolutely no way he can start over Alberto Tuesday. No way possible, unless Spalletti has lost his mind.
• The LB/RW conundrum. I think many would like to see Cicinho at RW, but that doesn't appear to be an option. Cassetti at RW is an option. Cassetti/Panucci at LB, Tonetto at LW and Mancini at RW is another option. Or we could see the old standby. I'd guess Taddei will see another run, but one never knows with The Poobah.
• Ludovicious or Simone from the get go? LG knows Madrid well, and probably still has a leftover stale taste in his mouth from his days with Barca, so asking him to unlock the backline may be a very smart move. Then again, Simone provides a lot of the other stuff against a lineup can put up some serious attacking numbers and goals. Simone for the start, Lulu shortly after the break.
Other than that, you know, status quo.
This is the "rumored" starting lineup, but we shall see:
Salgado, Ramos, Cannavaro, Torres;
Baptista, Gago, Guti, Robben;
Could be the 4-4-2 or maybe it will be more of their standard 4-3-3 they've been employing recently.
Obviously it will take an effort from all eleven (plus) to make this happen, so here's what each needs to do to turn this game into three magical points. (From my XI)
* - Disclaimer - I've seen about 4 Real games this year, none recently. Forewarned.
Doni: Play like he has over the past 6 weeks plus. Alex has looked every bit a world class goal keeper over that stretch, with few heart attacks and a lot of flashy reflex saves. He'll need to be on his toes for the full 90.
Cicinho: Don't get overly excited (pocket rockets have a tendency to do that) against his former teammates, and don't give so much damn space to whomever is out there on the flank. As long as he plays smart and mistake free he'll be fine. Anything on the other end will be an added bonus. (I suspect there will be a big bonus.)
Juan: Ugh. I'm sure he's fine, but I hate seeing guys come back over decent-length layoffs come back in games this big. Smooth tackles, tranquility at the back and good positioning. The basics, for now.
Philou: Mr. Mexes will have to step it up significantly if Juan doesn't walk onto the pitch like nothing happened. I think one of the worst things that can happen early in this game, aside from a Real goal or three, is a Philou yellow. And Philou really needs to take care of Rudd van Nistelrooy when he starts angling for position and moving towards space. Take em off the ball quickly and take em off the ball hard. (Hooray for Frenchmen.)
Cassetti: Workrate and pace. Up and down the flanks. When he forces himself on the game he really ends up making an impact. Let's hope the tank is full.
Daniele De Rossi: Be Daniele De Rossi. That simple.
Alberto Aquilani: Keep track of Guti on the defensive end, allowing for DDR to help out with the receiving ends. Don't lunge like Pizaman and allow for Guti to have beaucoup time on the ball. Allow him possession - take it when he can - but make sure he's stifled. On offense, a not-so-itchy trigger finger. That's Iker Casillas they've got in goal there, young'un.
Mancini: Magic. Mancini Magic. Lyon reincarnated.
Perrotta: Maybe one of these days lightning could strike and we'd have ourselves a 90 minute finishing bonanza of biblical proportions. Now would be nice. But basically disrupting play in the middle of the field (a lot of KA stifling Guti and Simone taking the ball off him would be welcome) and getting into position to miss sitters will do.
Taddei: At this point, I'd just like to see him improve his first touch and trapping. He'll probably need to help out with Robben, if he starts, but something productive on the other end would be nice.
Il Capitano: Just be the Francesco Totti of old, not the one of the last month. That guy takes this team to a whole new level.
Madrid's Attack v Roma's Defense: When it comes to the Champions League, Raul is always a huge worry. He's not the leading scorer for nothin', and the guy knows how to get it done in the competition. And Robben may be a helluva talent, but there's a 73% chance he'll get injured during the game (scientifically proven), which works in Roma's favor. Then there's the Juan injury and the questions out wide. I don't like this matchup much. Edge: Real.
Roma's Midfield v Madrid's Midfield: Roma's key here, and the place where I think they can win the game. Remember way way back when KA was healthy and Roma was handling the midfield? They're still capable of doing that, and can easily string enough passes together to run the white ones ragged. Especially if they can sneak in behind the fullbacks with some of those deep(er) passes. And I fully expect DDR to make enough sexy tackles than Calderon and Mijatovic are salivating in the press box by minute 10. Edge: Roma
Roma's Attack v Madrid's Defense: Madrid has quite a few injuries on the back end, and will probably be starting Salgado and Torres out wide. But that shouldn't matter: this should depend on how well Simone Perrotta and Francesco Totti matchup against the duo of Sergio "Hot As Balls" Ramos and Fabio Cannavaro. At this point.....wait and see. Edge: Push
Roma Channel Preview
Real Madrid Offside
I wouldn't be a proper Captain Obvious if I didn't say this: It's going to be an exciting game. In the end, Roma has enough pride that it realizes this is its chance to make up for last weekend, and keep the hunt for big time silverware alive. They'll come out guns blazing and going for the win.
Score: 3-2 Roma
Goals: Cicinho (31), Raul (38), van Nistelrooy (49), Totti (56), Mancini (72)
MOTM: Daniele De @#$%ing Rossi
When: 2045 CET, 1445 EST
Where: The Olimpico, Rome
Forecast: 6°C, clear. gorgeous night under the lights.
Liveblog: Oh yeah, this one's a definite liveblog. We'll start this one early, too.