There was a time, not that long ago, when the Coppa Italia meant something to Roma. Spurred on by their quest to be the first club to capture ten titles, and the Silver Star that came along with it, the Giallorossi approached the competition with enthusiasm and a sense of purpose you seldom see in domestic cup competitions. Of course, since this is Roma we're talking about, that unique glory was snatched away by the clutches of a decrepit Old Lady who shall remain nameless.
Nevertheless, Roma's foray into the 80th rendition of this competition begins Wednesday against Spezia Calcio.
Who?...my thoughts exactly.
Spezia Calcio, originally founded in 1906, has a bit of an interesting history despite their lack of notoriety. Located in Liguria, the Little Eagles' (isn't that cute?) greatest triumph occurred in 1944 when they toppled a Torino side led by none other than Silvio Piola to capture the Scudetto. However, this title was not deemed completely official due to the fracturing of the league during WWII. They were later awarded a ceremonial Scudetto (of sorts) in 2002 for their troubles.
During that same season, Spezia became a de facto farm team for Inter Milan, who acquired a 30% stake in the Serie B club and used the Little Eagles as a veritable petri dish for six seasons, though the partnership never produced anyone better than Goran Pandev.
Following a bout with bankruptcy in 2008, Spezia was officially reformed and spent several seasons bouncing around the lower rungs of Italian football before winning the Lega Pro treble. Spezia currently plies their trade in Serie B, where they rest in 11th place, winners of two straight matches.
Given that rather bleak history, Spezia has never had the pleasure of facing Roma in any competition, but they're on a bit of a streak at the moment, winning three of their past four matches in all competitions, having ousted Salernitana 2-0 earlier this month.
For their part, Roma are still winless in six matches and may have bigger fish to fry than the Coppa Italia this time around.
So, how will they approach this match? Will Rudi finally play some of the young guys, or will this be yet another tune up for the regulars?