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Totti Tuesday: The Pinnacle

Spaghetti alla Bolognese never tasted this good.

Mario Carlini / Iguana Press

Let’s make this clear: In games where Roma starts with Taddei and Romagnoli as its fullbacks, only one thing is important: Win. Don’t care if it’s ugly or Barca 2.0 with a frontline of Messi, Ronaldinho, Eto’o and Ronaldo (Brazilian one). With such makeshift fullbacks, Totti out and Strootman on the bench, results prime over beauty points in this case. And Roma did just that. They won, profit from other results in Italy, keep Juve in their sight and can now fully concentrate on surviving the month of March. The win in Bologna tastes even sweeter after Monday’s results: Napoli and Fiorentina drew against Genoa and Parma respectively. We simply cannot ask for more after such a weekend, I’ll take an ugly win and faltering rivals over a thrilling 3-3 and a diminished lead. I’m sure most of you feel the same.

I’m tired of repeating it but again: These wins are the difference between old Roma and new Roma. The Roma barely hanging on to Europa League spots with the likes of Lazio, Parma or Fiorentina and the Roma among the top guns of Serie A, Juventus and Napoli. I bet 90% of the fans have already forgotten the bad display of Saturday and are looking forward to the Inter clash. A lot different than Bologna: Home game, better pitch and atmosphere and an opponent who has to play along and take risks themself. There will be space and scoring opportunities, Roma-Inter usually delivers the goods concerning passion, goals and suspense. Mazzarri’s Inter are having a rather mediocre season, another loss in Rome will surely make the players and fans nervous and even put their EL-qualification at risk.

And so with the Nerazzuri coming to town, Roma enter the crucial part of the season as Juve’s only opponent for no1 (whatever Rafa Benitez may tell you). Milan-Juventus and Roma-Inter this weekend, Juventus-Fiorentina (the only team that have beaten the Bianconeri until now) and Napoli-Roma the weekend after that. Needless to say, the upcoming two weeks are the pinacle of 2013-2014. There is a lot of rivalry and revenge packed in those two rounds, everything is possible from now on. Also mark round 31 in your agenda: Napoli-Juventus and Sassuolo-Roma on the same day. Plus, Roma-Juventus and the postponed Parma match as well. Golden opportunities lie everywhere, they just need to take advantage of them. But let’s not look too far ahead though, step by step, point by point, just like Rudi wants. One by one, they are forced to watch the top run away. Milan, Lazio, Inter, now Fiorentina and Napoli… The pace of Serie A is cruel this year. Juve’s 66 points out of 25 games is a historical feat so remember we, tifosi, are blessed Roma’s right up there, chasing them.

The fullback position remains the Achilles heel for Roma this season and, like the previous fifty seasons, stays a working point for Sabatini. Two injuries and the whole department is turned into a mess and construction site. Who would’ve thought Roma would effectively miss Dodo at one point this season? However, the capture of Radja ‘Ninja’ Nainggolan was a masterpiece of Sabatini. Despite this being one of our uglier wins, Bologna will always have a special place in my mind/heart since it’s the first time a Belgian scored for La Maggica. Great game, important goal, Radja’s feeling quite at home in Rome already. Knowing Ninja, he’s a fighter and will do anything to prove himself to his NT coach and book his flight to the WC in Brazil. And what better way to do that with a fresh and shiny new Scudetto under his arms?