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Roma-Milan Preview: Conquering the Capital

They say “When in Rome, do as the Romans do…” So this Saturday, I say we do what the Romans did best: CONQUER.

The return of Zlatan the Conqueror

Not only are we a single point away from the Scudetto, a certain giallorossi opponent are all too familiar to this predicament: In 2004, we also clinched our last Scudetto vs. Roma. So you could say do it for old time’s sake. One might say “Daje Vu,” to mix some Roman dialect with a little French. I say BRING IT.

I cannot imagine a better welcome to Serie A for new American owners of AS Roma, Thomas di Benedetto and friends, than to watch another team win the Scudetto in their house. Everyone likes a party guest who steals the show, right? Plus, there’s the little matter of the undeserved win they stole from us at home in December. For the record, I am all about vengeance.

But I will confess there is a more sinister reason I want this win. I don’t like Roma. They are kind of like leeches, difficult to remove, but they probably won’t kill you, and yet they are sucking the life out of Serie A, leaving awful scars. Especially this season, where they have played some pretty terrible football, only to steal a goal or two in the last 20 minutes (or less) of the game to draw or win and discount the solid performance of the other team. I don’t like that style of football. If you can score in the last 20 minutes, or in stoppage time, then be man enough to score early enough to allow the other team to respond. Or at least play convincingly for the first 70 minutes so that your win is believable. I want to help ensure they don’t get that Champion’s League qualifying spot they are fighting for. Serie A deserves to be represented by the best.

They are also on the hotseat for breaking their record of most penalties given in a season, at 13 so far, and hated rivals Lazio are launching a complaint about this. I will let Lazio take on this crusade. Roma were given as many penalties in the crazy-violent Roma-Lazio derby as Lazio received all season, I suspect that Lazio might have a legitimate complaint. All I know is that for the talent they have on their squad, their level of play does make me wonder if they don’t spend more time in practices learning to act or dive. I’m just saying.

The thumb-sucking King needs to be overthrown
Speaking of talent, this past weekend, Francesco Totti surpassed the legendary Roberto Baggio to take the 5th spot in all-time Serie A scoring. Considering he has spent much of his time playing trequartista, rather than outright striker, even with the penalties awarded this season, that is very, very impressive. The man is a legend, and just when you think his crazy antics or injuries are going to end his career, he comes back and carries his team on his shoulders. Say what you will about him, but his career demands respect.

However a couple of his teammates earned the opposite of respect by getting themselves redcarded this past weekend. Daniele DeRossi offered up a trademark elbow to the face, whereas Simone Perotta punched an opponent in the small of the back. Each have since been awarded 3 match bans, which are on appeal as of this writing. However, it is next to impossible that either card will be rescinded which means that they should definitely not be going to battle with us on Saturday. Remind me to send a thank you note and maybe a bottle of wine. They are both talented players that will be missed by Roma, but definitely not by us.

That said, they have a caretaker coach that is a little like Leonardo 2.0 - naïve, inexperienced, and lucky as hell. Man-child Vincenzo Montella, age 36, brought better rapport with the players than did lifelong Roma fan and respected manager Claudio Ranieri, but brings little in tactics or wisdom. That should work out in our favor, except for that damned luck thing. So we are going to have to win this thing on the pitch, fair and square, regardless of luck, supposed ref favoritism, or even the ridiculous talent Roma seem to keep hidden for the first 2/3 or more of every game. And we will have to score early and ideally often, then defend like our women and children were in the goal for the last 1/3 of the game.

There is no way I am going to try to outguess Allegri on the lineups this time. He looks hungrier for this title than me, even though he is a class act all the way around and would never say the things I do. So I will tell you what I know as of this writing. Ibra is back from suspension. Pato is back from injury. Abate suffered an injury this week in training and is questionable. Last I heard Inzaghi and Gattuso were still training separately. I am probably forgetting some injuries, due the bloodlust consuming me as I think about this match, but I think pretty much everyone else is available. With a bench so deep, it will be interesting to see who the master tactician sends into battle as a starting 11. But I trust he will choose a lineup to dominate.

Practicing for the big party...in Rome??
As for Roma, they have been limping along with Alexander Doni in goal, who has been less than impressive this season, particularly when compared to their injured 1st team keeper, Julio Sergio. Defenders Juan, Burdisso, and Cassetti may or may not put up a fight, again their inconsistency in play is unpredictable. Following the suspensions of DeRossi and Perotta, Montella will be forced to select a midfield from amongst Menez, Pizarro, Simplicio, and Brighi, who can be fierce opponents on a good day, and even provide some nice goals. But again, whether they will be as motivated to delay our party and stretch for that 4th spot remains to be seen.

Montella has a potentially lethal strike force at his disposal. The aforementioned legendary Totti has 14 goals this season and is dangerous from set pieces, the PK’s, gratuitous or deserved, and has scored some beauties from the run of play this season, as if to silence the critics. Marco Boriello has 10 on the season, and in spite of not being able to locate a decent hair stylist in the Eternal City, scored the decisive goal against us in December. Oh how I long to show him what our defense has learned since then. Then there’s the fabulous Mirko Vucinic, who, when he decides to represent the Giallorossi, has a strike that is unstoppable, as well as a respectable 9 goals on the season.

With 3 wins and 2 losses in their past 5 games, as well as a Coppa Italia match coming up on Wednesday, Roma have no choice but to depose us on Saturday if they want to grab that 4th place spot from their 6th place vantage point they currently own. Plus, if they somehow overcome Inter’s one goal in the Coppa and we beat Palermo on Tuesday, we will be seeing them again soon enough in the Coppa Italia Final, and I would rather have the advantage.

The wolves are hungry, but I hope that we are even hungrier. Seven years without a Scudetto, standing by while Inter unjustly ruled for 4 seasons and came up with 5 Scudetti to pass us in titles is more than enough. We deserve our party, I don’t care where it is. Roma worked out really well for us last time, let’s do it again. And on a personal level, I want so desperately to teach these Romans what it means to truly CONQUER, not just do barely enough to stay in the hunt. In bocca al lupo!!!


This post brought to you by the failed attempt to lower aggression and testosterone levels
by listening to my “girl mix:” Annie Lennox, Jane Siberry, Sarah McLachlan,
Cocteau Twins, Sia, Metric, Mazzy Star, etc.