Roma's trail of tears continues on Saturday when they welcome another struggling marquee club, AC Milan, who are also embroiled in their own managerial controversy, to the Stadio Olimpico. Sinisa Mihajlovic was always a risky bet to lead such a large and formerly prestigious club, so we shouldn't be too surprised that he's joined Rudi Garcia on the Serie A hot seat. However, Milan has taken eight points in their past five matches, which, by Roma standards, makes them world beaters.
So, with Francesco Totti repudiated to be back in the squad and with Alessio Romagnoli and Andrea Bertolacci returning to their hometown, what kind of show can we expect on Saturday?
Miha's Milan Mess
After pouring millions into the transfer market this summer, including about €45 million on Romagnoli and Bertolacci alone, not to mention bringing Mario Balotelli back into the fold, much was expected from the Rossoneri this season. At the very least, they were expected to join Juventus, Roma and Napoli among the title contenders.
So what exactly has gone wrong?
Well, quite frankly, those big ticket items lost a bit of luster once they took the wrapper off. Granted, some of this has to do with their respective ages, but Romagnoli and Bertolacci haven't exactly lived up to that enormous price tag, and really, outside of Giacomo Bonaventura (aka Nick from New Girl), no one on Miha's squad is excelling, while Super Mario has been a virtual non-factor.
Beyond the struggles of their most expensive players, Milan's failings have been a bit harder to pin down. They only concede 11 shots per match, the sixth fewest in the league, and they're middle of the pack in tackling and interceptions, while their offensive statistics are roughly the same; so their not profligate in any particular area. The problem for Milan, much like Roma, has been their propensity to concede second half goals; they're currently sporting a -2 goal differential in the second 45.
In many ways, Roma will be talking to the man in the mirror when they face Milan tomorrow.
I've run out of things to say about the current state of affairs in the Eternal City. Rudi Garcia has received a litany of chances to prove himself, to show that he still commands respect and has what it takes to turn this thing around, and time after time, he's failed. I have no rational explanation why he's still leading this club, so we'll leave it at that.
The good news, however, is the potential return of Francesco Totti, who hasn't played since September 26th against Carpi. While Garcia has all but said that Totti won't start, we can be reasonably assured that he'll at least be on the bench, where Garcia will, just for kicks, leave him on the pine behind Sadiq Umar instead of Edin Dzeko.
As far as the rest of the starting lineup is concerned, now that Garcia has those erstwhile six midfielders back at his disposal, look for Alessandro Florenzi to shift back to right back while Daniele De Rossi, Radja Nainggolan and Miralem Pjanic man the center of the park.
At the back, the vertigo inducing quintet of Florenzi, Antonio Rüdiger, Kostas Manolas, Lucas Digne (who is really just guilty by association) and Wojciech Szczesny will reprise their roles as protectors of the realm. Gird your loins appropriately.
Upfront, look for Gervinho, Iago Falque and Sadiq to lead the line, while Sabatini ponders who is the bigger money pit, Stephan El Shaarawy or Diego Perotti.
The funny part about this match is that, between the respective populaces of Milan and Roma, we might have as many as six million people simultaneously hoping their side loses.
Serie A, catch the fever!