One of the perils of playing every day three days, as we're seeing, is that injuries tend to pile up rather quickly. One of the other, just as important, perils of playing every three days, is that sometimes your humble scribe forgets about a midweek match, such as this one. So, with my sincerest apologies, please enjoy this punctuated Parma preview.
Tomorrow's match against Parma is the easily digestible appetizer before Roma's three course meal to officially ring in the fall. Following the hors d'oeuvres served up by Antonio Cassano and the rest of the Crusaders at the Ennio Tardini tomorrow, Roma will face a surprisingly robust first course against Luca Toni and Hellas Verona, followed by the main dish, an impossibly decadent dinner against Manchester City. Then, of course, there is the bittersweet dessert waiting for Roma, the one whipped up by some Old Lady.
Facing this four course meal without Daniele De Rossi, Juan Iturbe, Leandro Castan and even Ashley Cole, should produce that same gut churning feeling you get when the waiter brings the check and you suddenly realize you left your wallet on the dresser.
What do you do? Dine and dash? Offer to clean the dishes? Hope that your date is feeling altruistic and picks up the tab?
For Roma, the unfortunate courtesan in this scenario is Seydou Keita. Sure, he's picked up his fair share of tabs in his day, but those aren't the eyes you want to stare into as you gently crack the crust on your crème brulee. But then again, you're not Amelie Poulain, so what the hell do you know about the joys of cracking crème brulee with a spoon? You just want to escape the date with your dignity and checking balance intact.
However, if the last two weeks are any indication, Keita has proven to be spongeworthy, so let's give him another shot.
With that in mind, an extremely brief look at what to...
Cassano & Roma
Cassano & Roma
Keep an Eye On
Antonio Cassano vs Everyone
We say this every time this fixture rolls around, but it bears repeating quite simply because Cassano keeps producing. Through two matches, old crazy legs has already scored three goals and created five scoring chances. Early returns of course, and if we wanted to, in the parlance of our times, throw some shade on Cassano we could easily point out that he's only completed 66% of his passes and has yet to successfully dribble past anyone. While these may be early signs of age finally winning this battle, Cassano is still effective in all facets of the game and from every conceivable angle, so the burden on rendering Cassano ineffective falls to the entire squad, but pay particular attention to Radja Nainggolan and this next man...
We mentioned in passing last week that MYM might be Gervino in defender's clothes, a player with a less than lustrous past now ripe for Garcia's inspiration. In Mbiwa's Serie A debut, he was remarkably effective, showing great pace, positional awareness and offensive acumen, completing 93% of his 71 passes. For Roma to weather the storm without Davide Astori and Leandro Castan, Mbiwa must be ready to log some heavy minutes over the next month. He's got the size and pace to be a tremendous asset for Roma's defense, so consider this is impromptu trial by fire.
Can Radja Keep it Rolling?
Listen, we all love Nainggolan, he's been a smash since day one, but did any of us actually expect this? Quite simply, Nainggolan has been one of Serie A's best players through three weeks. While he was always renowned for his defensive abilities and stamina, he's added an extra layer of offensive intrigue this season, passing and creating like never before. Given all the injuries and new faces to assimilate, where would we be without Nainggolan?
Crushing the Crusaders
In order for Roma to quell the Parma insurrection and maintain their perfect form, Garcia's ancillary parts must continue their impressive form. Roma will need Keita, Mbiwa and Adem Ljajic to shoulder more of the burden, if they can do that and Garcia can manage to get Gervinho, Miralem Pjanic and Francesco Totti some much needed rest, Roma might...might...be able to manage this four course meal without suffering angina.