Kosice, Slovan Bratislava, Gent, CSKA Sofia, Aris, Strasbourg … A selection of the small fish Roma has faced in the European pond since 2005. But now we reel a big one in: Bayern. German record champions and one of the main title contenders for this season’s Champions League. An honor to face them in our own turf, they’re a team which demands respect and praise. But the players must draw the line there. This is Rome, a city that never sleeps and has a ‘Hungry for Glory’ billboard on every streetcorner. We can’t let the fear take over. Instead, the team has to enjoy this prestigious affair and make most of it. After all, there’s nothing to fear but fear itself, a famous quote from the movie Batman Begins. Yes, I know my classics.
Roma actually managed to beat Bayern during the CL group fase of 2010. It doesn’t seem that awfully long ago but when you look at the formation Ranieri used that evening, it feels like a huge flashback to the past: Julio Sergio / Cassetti Mexes Burdisso Riise / Brighi DDR Greco / Menez / Vucinic Borriello. With the likes of Adriano, Simplicio, Pizarro and Cicinho on the bench. From those 11 only Daniele is a sure starter for Tuesday’s match. Borriello is injured, nowhere near a starting place on this team and will leave 99% certain in January. The rest of that team? Let’s say fortune wasn’t favorable for most of them. Riise is now making sandwiches in APOEL Nicosia (that’s Cyprus), Cassetti has no club after he left Watford (England) in the Summer, Greco and Burdisso are not the stars of the current Genoa team, JSB went back to Brazil and now plays for Comercia-something in Sao Paulo and Brighi is earning his paycheck at bottom club Sassuolo. Mexes, Menez and Pizarro have/had good stints in Milan and Fiorentina respectively while Vucinic said goodbye to Italy and now scores for the mighty Al Jazira Club (according to their site he has ten goals in five games, way to go Mirko!).
So what about this Bayern beast? They once again dominate the German league this season, are first with 20 points out of a possible 24 and are fresh from a 6-0 demolishion of Werder Bremen on Saturday. Alaba, Ribery, Schweinsteiger, Thiago, Martinez could or will miss the game so I’m happy we’re not the only ones with an injury crisis. Although, injury crisis? Iturbe is fit again while Manolas is suspended for Serie A but not Champions League. Garcia chose to rest our antilope Gervinho last weekend while Daniele and Astori seem to have shaken off their injuries. Only Keita, Castan and Strootman are the notable absentees. Thanks to the early 3-0 scoreline, the Chievo game didn’t ask much from the players unlike Juventus or Parma so fatigue shouldn’t be a problem. Motivation? Check. A full house? 99% check. Confidence? Yup. Media attention? Definitely. It’s all there to witness a good old magical evening in Rome since a long time. The 5-1 against CSKA was nice, the 1-1 in Manchester a good result but nothing feels more exciting than beating one of the favorites at home, preferably with a two- or three-goal-difference.
Am I being too optimistic? Do we expect too much from this Roma? Because this still remains Bayern, a household name for years in Europe with the world’s top players. Or do we underestimate Rudi and his boys? Does he have a cunning masterplan? Is Gervinho the key to all of this? Or Radja? Or will Totti once again prove his worth and carry his Roma on his shoulders like it’s 2001 or 2006? Your guess is as good as mine. Roma 2014 is way better than its 2010 version but so is Bayern. It’s a toss-up, really.
My advice to Rudi, Totti and co? Don’t tinker too much. Have fun, enjoy, party like it’s
1999 2010. This is exactly what we and the players wanted: big and prestigious adversaries. Nothing can hold us back now. Manchester? Phu, that was a walk in the park. A warm-up.
Things are heating up in Rome. The stage is set. The fans are present. Unleash the gladiators. In bocca al lupo!