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SOCCER-ITALY/

Cluj 1- Roma 1

Good first half, the second spot was firmly clinched by then, so they sent someone, presumably Guillermo, to find some postage for the second half. Saying they played at 60% might be generous.

Roma's potential opponents: Tottenham, ManU, Schalke, Barcelona, Chelsea, Real, Shakhtar.

My dream of seeing John Arne Riise wears short sleeves forced into long sleeves in the Donetsk winter lives.

(The draw is next Friday, the 17th, at 1200CET.)

GAME

93' Waiting for the whistle as they knock it around the back....

91' Cluj is peppering the box for another.

Roma, on the other hand, has completely mailed in the second half, since 90% of these players will be playing on the weekend and the group is set.

Let's see, man covering Traore: Cicinho. Height: Smurf.

Traore: 7'3.

Traore goal. Jesus, it took him long enough.

86' Back to reality, a nice feed by Francesco, too hard a touch by Borriello. This after free header #569 from Traore.

As it stands right now, teams Roma can face in the kayos: Tottenham, ManU, Schalke (woo), Barcelona, Chelsea, Real, Shakhtar.

I'd take two of those as absolutes - Schalke and Shakhtar - with Tottenham worrisome because of their pace, but one I'd undoubtedly have over the others.

But there's a solid chance this will not be pretty.

83' Daniele just got nailed in the face with a ball that we could hear on the stream like right next door, and immediately went down. That boy's going to have quite the headache in the morn.

82' Fairly sure this is now shooting practice, as everyone is happy to just search for their own shot which would normally qualify as Plan Q.

Traore gets free header #427 of the half, weakly puts it into Lobont's mitts.

The offside trap is largely killing Cluj today, so that's something.

79' Daniele shoots from about 25, bad decision; Cicinho shoots from the half, even worse.

Still one sub in the bag. Claudio probably won't use it.

76' Roma seemingly happy to concede free headers right now. The foot's asleep and being hung outside the driver's side door.

74' Cluj clearly onside for a 1v1 in the box, but called off. Horrendous call.

It's pouring, pouring rain right now. Coming down in sheets. Glad it held off this long, but it was always in the forecast.

71' Off the wall. Impressively, that's the first free kick off the wall today. Typically they've had a baker's dozen by now.

The little things.

70' Keeping with the theme, Borriello feeds Totti through - finally - and it's pushed wide. And so he does a little dance, wins a free kick to make up for it.

Totti and Simplicio are playing like something formerly lunch in the second half.

68' Still 3-0 in Bavaria.

Borriello 1v1 from a difficult distance saved; back down the other end, bodies are dropping before a shot is skied over the bar.

67' Foot is firmly, firmly off the pedal.

66' Julio Culio thinks it's 2008 all over again; 'tisn't.

Cicinho on for Cassetti. Claudio's taken care of those sitting on a yellow here - Marco and Yeremy both out.

63' Cluj fans chanting Lazio. Is that supposed to be insulting? That's up their on the intelligence spectrum with Oh Nooooo.

Best these guys can do?

61' Intricate work manages a chance, but Borriello puts it on the right foot. We don't do that here.

59' That was a handball, but clearly ball-to-hand - took a deflection.

58' De Maradona wants a handball, doesn't get it. Cluj fans want a head, might.

55' Traore doing his absolute best for a penalty, which is his worst. He was infinitely more effective in Rome......Castellini marauding.

Shit, they might need to actually buy him.

Now let's get Phat Stuff a quick Champions League run on the Romanian treadmill.

51' 3-0 Bayern. For Roma to get bounced, this now requires a six goal swing - four for Basel, two for Cluj.

Happy Champions League Knockouts everyone!

49' Then again again, when they look superfluid, they often lose. What the hell do I know?

Burdisso heads one on goal, saved well, DDR shoots wide.

48' Service and play in the final third has been pretty sloppy. The goal came via a pass damn near the half, and I'm not sure anyone's been fed through since - or before, even.

Of course with two men who drop back - Totti and Menez, in the first half - that leaves Borriello as the lone man up high.

47' Totti shot wide.

Both teams are playing this out like the formality it appears to be. Apparently they were scoreboard watching at halftime.

SECOND HALF

Greco coming on, for Jeremy I believe. Smartly, since he wasn't supposed to start, I gather.

Solid half, nothing spectacular. Ultimately you'd like them to crack Cluj a little more easily, but everything's coming centrally and they can tuck bodies in. Maybe a little wider play to open the second half.

And Borriello's nursing his shoulder, so with the Bayern score, we may see Vu-To-Me soon, or even Phat Stuff.

HALF

Mexes plays Traore the fool for an offside.

1' added.

44' Traore whips his leg back like an oil derrick; saved easily.

Lobont then acrobatically punches a ball out for a corner when it was going to harmlessly go out itself. Bogdan Lobont in miniature these last two minutes, ladies and gents.

41' Lobont with an astonishing save seven yards from net after the ball was slapped down with De Zerbi's hand. Maybe he's De Maradona.

40' The pace of this game makes Adriano seem swift.

And this game is begging for a cameo from him now, unless things turn dire. Results are, at the moment, optimal, though another Roman goal or seven would be nce.

If Bayern can get it to 4-0 or 5-0, and Roma knock in a half dozen or so of their own, this game might actually become Guillermo Proof™.

37' Bayern 2-0. Hip hip.

35' Someone needs to tell De Zerbi he's not De Messi.

33' Knocking the ball around for a bit, Cluj with the odd chance down the other end. Menez thieves, makes a run, hands off to Borriello, and if he could've turned, would've found Menez clear on net. It's agonizing seeing things develop like that when the players aren't in a position to execute.

Ball cleared a first time, I think by Mexes, then cleared again, by Mexes. Someone needs to bottle that hair and sell it.

31' Cluj now with a decent attempt to split the defense, eventually win a corner.

And over it. Both his free kicks have been way over the bar.

Daniele wins a free kick dead center, 25 from net. Francesco over it.

28' Castellini with his first brain blip for Roma. God, considering the normal state of the fullbacks, that might be a club record.

27' Was it Mazzone who said Totti should play the Pirlo role later in his career? I gather it was, and I'm not sure he's entirely wrong.

And, of course, it was Francesco with the dime on the goal. He's good at football.

25' Well then, this is a nice start. Totti's flaring balls left and right.

Someone, I don't know who but I'm guessing Francesco, just hit a pearl from thirty yards away to split the defense and send Marco in 1v1. Nice finish, ridiculous pass.

BORRIELLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOO

20' Cleared, and it winds up with Lobont as Totti plays RB for a moment. Totaalvoetbal.

19' Ball work in the midfield becoming decidedly more fluid - and it wasn't shabby to begin with. Julio Culio takes down Cassetti, wins a free kick five yards outside the box on the right hand side.

17' Cluj's tactics are reminding me of the Fiorentina game last year, but with one-tenth the possession: hoofing it into the box against Mexes and Juan is never, ever going to work.*

* - I reserve the right to retract this at any point today.

Roma dominating possession in the outset here.

15' Daniele threads one to a Cluj player, then wins it back. Being an awesome defender is like a built-in safety.

14' Cassetti manages to hold off a defender running for about six and a half miles...the crosses it into another's shins.

13' Save Bogdan. Counter(ish) Roma....Borriello turns it into a turnover.

12' Mexes has been damn near impeccable as the front defender when crosses are coming in from the left this year; either it skies over him, or he clears it out, but typically his positioning has just been awesome. Which leads me to something very important we need to discuss:

His hair has been top notch all year long.

10' Menez with an 'attacker's tackle'. He's gonna be suspended today, of this I'm certain.

Free kick Totti from 25.....no repeat from 2008.

9' I'm not going to say Cluj is parking the bus, but the ratio of burgundy-to-white shirts is like 9-2 in the attack. Appears worse because Jeremy's dropping back.

8' The timbre of my Romanian commentary is decidedly unbiased. I'm rather shocked.

6' Julio Culio whips one in and it's whipped right back out after a free kick conceded by Brighi.

4' Neck warmer thingy crew: Totti, Cassetti, Borriello. Because this is the important stuff.

(Still awaiting a firm grasp on what's happening besides swapping possession in or around midfield.)

3' Stream is hiccuping, plus it isn't showing the time. Awesome.

1' I'll be keeping tabs on Bayern - Basel as well, so if you're waiting to watch that game...leave now. Now I say.

KICKOFF

Cassetti and Menez sitting on a yellow. Not sure if that happens if they've dropped down to Europa, but I'll be too sad to care anyway.

Why is it that only Frenchmen wear short sleeves with gloves?

Julio Sergio has groin issues, so Bogdan's coming home. Suppose he pulled it on purpose?

Why is it that only Frenchman seem....uhh...was that Lobont in the lineup? Sure as shit looked like him. It was.

Exiting the tunnel in the away white. We can only assume every stitch of that black monstrosity was burned at the stake in some sort of evil-ridding ceremony.

Well, the stream's awesome if you like commercials.

Channel 60706 is showing potential.

A seemingly infinite number of Sopcast streams, which is good.


Actual XI

Well, the stars are aligning for Leandro from the bench, I guess. That boy's hamstrings better be deader than Tutankhamun.

Julio Sergio
Cassetti, Mexes, Juan, Castellini
Brighi, DDR, Simplicio
Menez
Totti, Borriello.


Bench:
Lobont, Burdisso, Dead Guy, Cicinho, Greco, Taddei, Vucinic.

***

The last time Roma trekked it to Transylvania, the season's revelation in central midfield dismissed the poor Champions League result(s) by dismissing a couple goals into the Cluj nets.

The stars are aligning for Leandro.

Plus I seem to recall Totti & Perrotta doing their Nepalese yak thing. God I miss Dynamo.

Likely XI

Via RomaNews me:

Julio Sergio
Cassetti, Mexes, Juan, Castellini
Greco, DDR, Simplicio
Totti
Vucinic, Borriello.

Everyone knows (I think) that the first thing done in athletics after a game is to go in the next day and dissect what, if anything, went wrong in the previous game in order to correct it for the next.

Tactically you toss that one out, but the simplest today is a natural self-correction of sorts: Claudio can theoretically run out his first team, which he wisely decided to pull back due to the pitch where ankles go to die from the weekend.

Well, under normal circumstances this would be true; it feels like they're dropping like flies again. Pizarro's at home with the flu (I didn't pass it on post-Palermo, swear) while Jeremy isn't 100% because...I've lost track. The balance has improved significantly - pesky inner ear problems - but he may still need a sandwich. Or hell, a multivitamin. Kid's not Alberto fragile, but he's not exactly Ironman, either.

RomaNews has it as a rotational game, with Cicinho and Taddei in the side. Rodrigo making it to the starting XI seems iffy; I'm assuming, rightly, I think, he was brought in on the weekend because the middle of the pitch was distinctly worse than the wings, and he's the only proper wide midfielder on the squad. A start is pushing it when the midfield of Simplicio and Greco orbiting Daniele has looked really solid, if not the business, while Rodrigo was injured. Cicinho for Cassetti...well I don't get that one. Traore manhandled the entire defensive line the last time, only felled by the woodwork and the fact that he's raw in the head. Seems with defense the issue, starting your worst defender* in a must-not-lose game isn't advised. But then Claudio's been nailing it - obvious exception aside - for at least a month straight now, so what the hell do I know?

Plus, you know, I say Greco.**

* - Guillermo's dead to me.
** - I do of course realize that some legs may be tired from their beach running on the weekend, even with the extra day rest, starting in midfield. This is the only reason I'll accept for his benching.

And the must-not-lost bit is important - they need merely a draw - but I gather Mirko needs to be inserted in this side and left there to take his lumps, particularly with Menez less than kosher. We joke that he's solely a big game player and that he can come off an Arctic iceberg, take two steps and catch fire, both of which are largely true, but he's your biggest game-changer, your scale-tipping player; he's the man that makes the magic happen. Run him out til he finds form or it finds him - chances are it won't be long before they rendezvous dirty again.

Plus, Phat Stuff didn't look useless at Chievo, so there's at least one healthy option with a prayer and a burrito off the bench.

Hoorah for that.

Also coming via Roma News are the possible alterations to their projected lineup, and they read...

Mexes-Burdisso, Mexes-Juan, Cassetti-Castellini, Cicinho-Cassetti, Menez-Simplicio, Juan-N. Burdisso

In other words: eleven players will start for AS Roma.

Charting new waters this evening.