A comfortable home victory over Livorno is exactly what la Beneamata needed to calm nerves before the big Saturday-night game against Roma. With two games this week, the plan was to dispatch the Tuscan side whilst expending as little energy as possible, and for once, things went smoothly.
Even better was the performance of Samuel Eto’o who scored two good goals and looked a lot more like the Barcelona version of himself than the off-form version that has been turning up for Inter this season. The fans will be hoping this is a sign that the Cameroon striker is finding his best form just when the club needs him most, especially with Diego Milito being ruled out. Another big positive was the performance of a certain Ricardo Quaresma, who looked like the player we all know he could be, providing dangerous crosses and proving a real handful for the poor Livorno defenders. If he can somehow avoid going back to being the Portuguese Amantino Mancini then he can be a very good option for Jose Mourinho, because he can do things that nobody else in the team can – and potentially provide a dribbling threat on the left to add to Douglas Maicon down the right hand side.
The Livorno match also saw the return of Cristian Chivu from his horrible skull fracture. Seeing the Romanian back in action will be heart-warming for Interistas not only because he is a top-quality player, but also because he is a great professional who deserves to be back on the football pitch doing what he loves.
Now thoughts must turn to arguably the biggest game in Europe this weekend: the showdown at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome between Roma and Inter. With Milan losing to Parma on Wednesday, this game presents a very good chance for the champions to put a seven-point gap between themselves and the Giallorossi, and at least maintain their four-point gap over Milan. Should they win the game, Roma’s title challenge will begin to look like a dream again more than a reality, and it would really knock the confidence out of a side that have been the most consistent in Serie A over the last few weeks. There is talk that Francesco Totti may well be making his comeback from injury against Inter, and this would obviously present a very different challenge to the Nerazzurri defence than Wednesday’s strikeforce of Mirko Vucinic and Luca Toni. ‘Er Pupone’ provides so much creativity and invention to the Roma attack that Mourinho will no doubt be hoping that he does not play.
The Nerazzurri would also do well to remember the reverse fixture near the start of the season, when Roma took an early lead and looked like the better side until Daniele De Rossi had to be substituted with a broken cheekbone. Even then, la Beneamata only managed a 1-1 draw, and they should not go into the Olimpico on Saturday expecting anything less than a Giallorossi barrage. However, Roma will have to produce a significantly better display than the one that saw them fortunately draw with Milan only a few weeks ago. The match is poised to be very entertaining, and it would take a brave man to predict which side is the favourite at this stage. On the positive side, Inter would be happy with a draw, as it would maintain their lead over Roma, whilst Roma really need the win if they are to continue to push for lo Scudetto all the way to the end of the season.
The final part of this week’s focus, whilst usually reserved for something light, has to be dedicated to Mario Balotelli. ‘Super Mario’ has been backed all season long by Inter’s management but just cannot seem to keep his head down and concentrate on football. The rumours of a row with coach Jose Mourinho were dismissed at first, but there certainly seems to be something wrong in the relationship between the coach and his young star. To make matters worse, the fans have started to get on Balotelli’s back, chanting that those who cause trouble at the club should be removed, and it is easy to sympathise with their point of view. Looking past all the possible arguments with players and staff, his general behaviour is just unprofessional, for example, continually going out of his way to tell people that he is a Milan fan – can you imagine any Real Madrid or Roma player talking about how much they love Barcelona or Lazio? For all his undoubted talent, it seems as if Balotelli is well on the way to becoming the next Antonio Cassano, a man who promised so much, yet delivered so little.