These are exciting times at the Stadio Olimpico. The new season waits around the corner, the Super Cup is just days away and excitement is growing in the red half of Rome. With it, the new season brings another chance to topple Inter Milan as well as the expected challenge from a resurgent Juventus.
As always when a new season approaches the mind games are already in full swing. Inter midfield general Esteban Cambiasso recently described his side as: “unquestionably the dominators of the last few years.” Elsewhere, Lazio captain Tommaso Rocchi claimed that: “Inter are still the team to beat.” Whilst labelling Juventus and AC Milan as their main rivals for the title with no mention of Roma.
Roma boss Claudio Ranieri was quick to respond by putting pressure on Inter manager Rafael Benitez by suggesting that the Italian top flight would not be quite the same without Jose Mourinho.
Meanwhile Cesare Prandelli also talked up Ranieri’s men, saying: “Roma remain the most fierce anti-Inter.” On the evidence of last season Roma are certainly the side most likely to challenge the the Nerazzurri. How much of a sustained challenge they do mount though is dependent on many factors.
In what has been a somewhat subdued transfer window for most Italian sides, i Lupi have been limited by their precarious financial situation to acquiring players on free transfers and loan deals. Brazilians Adriano and Fabio Simplicio arrived from Flamengo and Palermo respectively to strengthen the squad and young Argentine defender Guillermo Burdisso was brought in on loan. While Simplicio is a proven Serie A performer, the signing of Adriano represents something of a gamble on the part of Ranieri. The man know as the Emperor has all the talent required to be one of the very best in the world, but his temperament and fitness have let him down all too often in the past.
It would appear that Ranieri has not yet completed his transfer dealings for this summer with moves in the pipeline for Nicolas Burdisso and Diego Lugano as he looks to add defensive cover to his squad. However, money is tight in the Eternal City and so there could be important parts to play this season for some of the younger squad members. The likes of Alessio Cerci and Stefano Okaka will be looking to break into the first team whilst an impressive pre season campaign has moved Leandro Greco up the pecking order.
The youngsters, as well as the new signings, will all be looking to the upcoming Super Cup matchup with Inter as an opportunity to lay claim to a starting berth. Claudio Ranieri has a fully fit squad from which to select his starting eleven and will be keen for his side to put in a strong performance against the reigning domestic and European champions. The Roman tactician will be keen to avenge last season’s Coppa Italia final defeat to i Nerazzurri and set a high standard for the season ahead with a good performance.
One man who will be hoping to impress his Coach on Sunday is Philippe Mexes. The Frenchman had to be content with a seat on the bench for much of last season due to the excellent form of Nicolas Burdisso and Juan in defence. As the Burdisso transfer saga drags on almost endlessly, a window of opportunity has presented itself for the defender who was recently selected to captain his country in their friendly defeat for Norway. A strong display against Inter would certainly not harm his cause.
The Super Cup also offers a chance for i Giallorossi to bag some silverware almost before the season begins. However, perhaps more important for Roma is the opportunity to inflict a major psychological blow on their main title rivals. Having already lost the special talents of Jose Mourinho and Mario Balotelli in the summer, a defeat could damage the mindset of the Inter players as well as boosting the confidence of the Roma squad going into what appears to be a relatively tame opening run of games. I Lupi face Cesena, Cagliari, Bologna and Brescia in their opening four games and will see no reason why they should not take maximum points up until the visit of Inter on the 26th September.
So while the Super Cup may not be the most glamorous trophy in football, expect to see a fired up Roma side on Sunday night as they bid to get their season off to the best possible start.