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Chievo Preview: Donkeys Stuck Between Two Dances

Hey, Chievo has feelings too, you know?

Spal v AC Chievo Verona - Serie A Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

How sad for Chievo. You’re not the sexiest outfit from Serie A and here you are, stuck between two glorious dances with a lady in red (Liverpool, for people who are bad in links and interpretations). The Champions League semifinal, the first for this AS Roma side and the first European semifinal after a long 34 years wait. Two dances, too bad Roma already stepped on her toes once and she was bursting with anger. Her vengeance was sweet...

Two games, one matter of life and death. The biggest stage of footbal. A happening witnessed by Roma fans all around the world. Media attention sky rockets, fans are going crazy, expectations have no limits... And then, in the middle of this fierce battle, ow look how cute, it’s Chievo! Number sixteen in Serie A. I almost feel sorry for them. Almost.

Because the Flying Donkeys must be beaten in order to keep that precious third spot. Right now there’s no place for mercy, we’re at a critical point in Serie A. Both Lazio and Inter face difficult fixtures this weekend (Torino and Juventus respectively) so a win against Chievo will go a long way to secure this media circus AKA the Champions League for next season. I bet this campaign tasted so sweet for most players, all of them will want to show their worth again in next year’s edition.

If results this weekend go Roma’s way, the Giallorossi have a four point cushion with fifth place (and thus Europa League) with three games left to play, that’s nine points. And don’t forget Lazio-Inter on the final match day. That’s an almost guaranteed CL ticket right there. Beat Chievo, secure a top 4 spot. No complicated mathematics, no tinkering or changing formations or ‘specials of the day’... Get out there, get the job done and save as much energy as you can for Liverpool Salah FC on Wednesday.

But first, the yellow-blue army from Verona. After facing Salah, Firmino and Mane, Alisson, Manolas and Fazio must now handle Inglese, Pucciarelli and Giaccherini. Hardly the same challenge. Right? Wrong! Ironically, that’s exactly what makes this type of game dangerous. Everyone’s talking about another 3-0 miracle in Europe and are already putting up formations and game plans, while the real deal, the future of this club and the funds of next year’s CL, depend on this little, small family club from Verona.

Interesting fact: While Roma have to score at least three goals against Liverpool next week to progress, they can already start their preparations against Chievo. In five of the last seven confrontations with the Donkeys AS Roma managed to score at least three goals, with a 3-5 win last season as piece de resistance. FYI that’s French for piece of resistance. Ahem. Nice stats but they mean nothing this Saturday.

While a home game against the Donkeys rarely posses a threat (Roma won its last four home games against Verona and didn’t lose this tie in five years (0-1 in May 2013), this team did hold down the Romans back in December. A sturdy defense and especially a super Sorrentino denied Roma a win or even a goal that afternoon, as it ended in a 0-0 stalemate.

Sorrentino has always been a pain in our asses with classy performances and be sure that he’ll be in top form on Saturday once again. Damn, that guy always morphs into Buffon or Zoff whenever he plays us and he has given me nightmares since 2009 or so.

Whoever plays up front will have to make sure every scoring opportunity counts. If it’s still 0-0 by HT, Chievo can play their favorite waiting game and Roma will need to waste even more energy to keep the three points in Rome. The sooner they seal this game, the better. Only then Eusebio can start thinking about ‘Pool and take off guys like Manolas or Radja.

So, who will enter the pitch for the Giallorossi and who can recover? Alisson will remain in goal while Peres and Silva could once again get the nod over Florenzi and Kolarov, just like at SPAL. Since Salah and co made a fool of those guys past Tuesday, maybe they need some time to rehab. Strootman won’t make it so expect Pellegrini to start alongside two of Dani, Radja and Gonalons.

Up front our second absentee is Perotti. However, EDF still has more than enough options on the wing: SES, Gerson, Schick and Ünder are all fit and raring to go. Perhaps even a cameo of Antonucci if the scoreline permits it. Dzeko should be benched so he’s in top shape for the return leg in the CL. Only if it’s really, really necessary, Edin can come on and save the day, as he did numerous times before.

Chievo only miss leftback/midfielder Gobbi and are currently in a crisis. Their last win dates back from March 31, at home against Sampdoria. In fact, that was their only win in their last nine games, losing five. If you look at the even bigger picture: two wins since December 2017, including thirteen losses. Yikes + Daaaaayum + Holy Guacamole! I guess the Donkeys aren’t flying anymore but crashing down at a speed rate of 100 mph.

Yet, like I said earlier, no mercy. The donkeys must be slain. Not literally of course, I’m an animal lover. Chievo Verona are a likeable side and I don’t want them to get relegated, but this is simply a must win for Roma. There are no excuses and I prefer they put this to bed as soon as possible.

You see, the lady in red is waiting for one final dance...