Club Focus – Roma – Just like watching Brazil…

There are no written superlatives that can describe Roma’s second half performance on Tuesday night as they fought back from 2-0 down to defeat Bayern Munich and almost guarantee a place in the last 16 of the Champions League. Those of us who had to watch from the relative comfort of an armchair were in for a night of desperation which transformed itself into intense joy, separated by a fair dose of nail biting, hair pulling and arm gesticulating. It is for nights like these that so many of us live and breathe the most beautiful game on the planet.
Romabig
The Giallorossi lined up with the now familiar 4-3-1-2 formation, Jeremy Menez in his free role behind the strikers. As discussed in our previous Club Focus, Claudio Ranieri made a smart move and included in his first eleven both Philippe Mexes and Mirko Vucinic. A very good decision, not only to show his continuing faith in these two players when it comes to important matches, but to also hopefully warn off any journalistic rumblings that could unsettle what looks like a very tight-knit squad with idle transfer talk. Both ultimately played their part in a historic game that will no doubt be talked about for years to come.
The Bavarian giants started positively and limited Roma to sporadic counter-attacks, though neither team really took hold of the game until Mario Gomez spun inside the box and his scuffed shot swept passed Julio Sergio and into the net via the inside of the post. It silenced the Olimpico and things got worse a few minutes later when current golden boy Menez placed a wayward pass into the path of the German forwards, which ended at the feet of Gomez, whose angled drive once again beat the Roma keeper and all but extinguished Ranieri’s original tactical plans for the tie.
But the ex-Chelsea tactician showed his true value and expertise as he adjusted his team formation for the second period. He pushed Menez out wide on the right (has he been reading our Club Focus of late?) and Vucinic went wide left. Leandro Greco, who had been booked early in the first half, was substituted for Fabio Simplicio, and so the fight-back began. Roma pressed and pressurised both the space and their opponents, which suffocated and visibly demoralised Louis Van Gaal’s players. Menez became a constant threat, and one mazy run set up Marco Borriello to score whilst prostrate on the ground and halve the deficit. Borriello is by far and away the most in-form Italian striker, and Cesare Prandelli must surely be taking note.
The comeback was completed when from the left, John Arne Riise sliced his way past defenders and crossed for Daniele De Rossi to equalise. But it did not end there, as Borriello was upended in the area for a stonewall penalty, converted by substitute Francesco Totti. It was a remarkable victory, celebrated with massive jubilation amongst the Giallorossi faithful after a breathtaking game that left the Germans shell-shocked. It was merited and earned through player desire, skill and the Coach’s tactical awareness.
As much as we could carry on discussing Tuesday’s spectacle, Serie A is back at the weekend and I Lupi have a very tricky task, away to Palermo. The Sicilians can blow hot and cold but they are a team that could easily knock the tracks from under the current Roma locomotive. In terms of team selection, Juan will replace Nicolas Burdisso, who is serving a suspension. David Pizarro is expected to play from the first whistle and his geometric passing will be needed at La Favorita. Captain Totti will almost certainly start in place of Mirko Vucinic, who is carrying a slight knock.
Marco Cassetti missed training as his tendonitis problem flared up again, though it is hoped he will be fit to face Palermo.
We will leave this week’s Club Focus with an interesting fact. The Roma win against Bayern Munich was not the first time Ranieri has come back from behind to defeat Louis Van Gaal. In January 1998, at the Nou Camp, the Italian coach was at the helm of Valencia and after 52 minutes was 3-0 down to Van Gaal’s Barcelona. 40 minutes later the away team were celebrating an astonishing 4-3 victory, as Argentine Ariel Ortega hit a last-minute winner.
A touch of ‘déjà vu’ perhaps for the Dutchman, who will surely be hoping to avoid Signor Ranieri at all costs in the future.

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