I’m in favour of a European Super League, and I remember I was told I didn’t appreciate the passion of Italian football in reaction. Now we’re not going to fix the problems of calcio in a match preview post, but it’s safe the say the anachronism of ‘passionate tifosi’ did nothing for Entella this season.
The Biancocelesti are one of seven clubs this year who - through no direct fault of their own - have fallen into the chaos of short-termism that’s plagued Italian football ownership from the neck down.
Thanks to Cesena declaring bankruptcy and avoiding a -15 point penalty in last season’s Serie B for money laundering and irregular transfer fees with Chievo, Virtus Entella don’t even know what league they’ll be playing in tomorrow as they argue for a reinstatement to Serie B where they were relegated in Cesena’s place.
Sounds like the recipe for a siege mentality tomorrow at the Olimpico? I think so.
Roma v. Virtus Entella: January 14th. 20:00 CET/2:00 EST. Stadio Olimpico, Roma.
Entella now sit 6th in Serie C/A having played - in some cases - as much as 6 games less than clubs above them. They had their league schedule suspended from mid-September to the beginning of November, awaiting a final decision from the Lega Pro (that decision probably won’t satisfy anyone when it does come as the Lega have wanted to reduce Serie B to 18 teams for a while now).
Why should Roma care? Entella are coming to the Olimpico with Coppa glory as the only sure thing they can pencil into their season’s schedule; and they have a taste for it after defeating Serie A’s Genoa in the last round. The only ingredient missing in this cup upset is a former flame shared between the two clubs.
We won’t go as far back as ex-Entella and Roma Hall of Fame striker Giuliano Taccola (who’s story under Herrera is damn tragic by the way - I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few flags for him at the Curva tomorrow) to find one. Who could fit the bill today?
Two-goal cup hero Entella midfielder Simone Icardi is more than happy to oblige.
Icardi scored his brace in Entella’s 3-3 cup upset over Genoa last round (they won 10-9 on penalties), and he’s looking for a memorable return to the stadium where he once dreamed of playing in Giallorossi.
“They’re all romanisti at home,” Icardi told GianlucadiMarzio.com when the tie was first made in December. “Dad is a season ticket holder in the Curva Sud for 30 years and often goes to the away games. When he knew I would come to play in the white and blue of Entella last season, he asked me ‘why those colours?’ I put him at ease by telling him they were the colours of Argentina.”
Icardi is sure to be disappointed on at least one level, as he had plans to swap jerseys with Daniele De Rossi at the end of tomorrow’s game. “I’ve already told all my teammates there will be trouble for whoever asks for his jersey [instead of me]!”
It’s unclear whether DDR will be called up to the squad, but Roma’s captain surely won’t play after such a long injury lay-off. Meanwhile, Eusebio Di Francesco confirmed that Manolas and El Shaarawy are out of the squad altogether. The latter is out because of a flu epidemic which has also struck down Florenzi, Kolarov, Karsdorp and Marcano in the process. EDF described the condition of all these players as “touch and go” for tomorrow.
Assuming they’re all out, that means the backline picks itself: the central defensive partnership of Fazio and Juan Jesus is flanked by Santon and Luca Pellegrini. Added to that, Roma’s cup-keeper Antonio Mirante reportedly suffered an injury during training yesterday and is almost certainly out.
Further upfield, Nicolò Zaniolo will complete his strange season of career coming full circle, if he starts tomorrow. Zaniolo made his Serie A debut against his academy club Fiorentina, and he’d be making his senior Coppa debut against former club Entella.
This season’s Coppa Italia is finally televised internationally once more. Watch the Roma game tomorrow live on ESPN+ in the United States, and live on BT Sport if you’re in the United Kingdom. In Italy, it remains on Rai 2.
Roma face an Entella team out to prove they’re playing in a league they shouldn’t, driven by midfielder Icardi walking onto the Olimpico pitch he dreamed of playing on all along; all of this while Roma manage a January flu-breakout ravaging the dressing room.
The winner of tomorrow’s tie goes on to face Fiorentina in the quarter finals.