An exodus of fifteen-thousand Romanisti will be the prologue to the closing chapter of this year’s Campionato. In Verona, against Chievo, Roma will wager what is left of their hopes against the pride of the Gialloblù. There has been much bitterness for the Romanisti in recent weeks, but the general consensus is that – however it ends – this season has been a resounding success. There are few regrets – David Pizarro mentioned the second half against Sampdoria (‘if only we could play that again’), but the real stingers are probably the first two matches, lost under the management of Luciano Spalletti. The team should have changed Coaches over the summer, but the irresolution at top levels meant that the bald-headed Tactician stayed, and six points were thrown to the wind. How far they have come since then.
It is a shibboleth of Calcio to say that the next match ‘will be harder than it seems.’ Mario Yepes of Chievo promises that: “Roma won’t have it easy” but in truth, it all depends on how much will power the men in yellow can conjure against the team from the capital. They have nothing left to fight for other than integrity, but they are not against the best iteration of the Giallorossi of the year. In fact, many of their players are aching, recovering or clenching their teeth – Pizarro, Francesco Totti, Mirko Vucinic, Marco Cassetti, Philippe Mexes, Julio Baptista. In addition, John Arne Riise is disqualified for the match, and for the first time we will see Roma without her thrust on the left. Hardly a welcome novelty, but in its own way, it will be interesting. And of course it reminds us of something most people have been saying for a while – that Roma seriously lack depth when it comes to the fullbacks, and that one of the most urgent moves for the summer mercato will be finding a substitute for Riise. On Sunday, the left-back position will be covered by Cassetti, who is not used to that position and who, dulcis in fundo, is not in great physical shape.
The relocation of Cassetti on the left frees up space on the right for Marco Motta, who gets another chance to impress. As we mentioned in our last Club Focus, Motta has plenty of promise and we hope that Roma will take the gamble of having him start as right-back next season. It would be very flustering to buy an alternative only to see young Motta flourishing in some other team. The rest of the team will likely see Simone Perrotta and Rodrigo Taddei on the field, if not necessarily from the first minute. All things put together, they have done very well this year, and there would be a measure of justice in seeing them win the Scudetto in the last match of what may well be their last important season with the team. Pizarro is hurt, but he will try to be there, and Daniele De Rossi puts in the last of his rage before he has to turn his mind to the World Cup. The other guaranteed starter in the midfield is Jérémy Menez. The only shining gem in a crown composed of stars opaque and faded, Menez will be carrying on his shoulders the real extent of Roma’s hopes. For the rest of the team – as we have mentioned – is in no great shape. Unless Vucinic has recovered very quickly and very well, he will not bring much to the left flank, and Cassetti won’t be able to help, either. Totti, apparently, is not well (is he ever?). He played a solid game in the last match against Cagliari, but he is not guaranteed to repeat the feat. So Chievo do have the possibility of earning a result, or at least, making Roma sweat for it. But they must really want it, and at this stage of the season, nobody can say if they will.
A little more determination should have been instilled in Siena, who are facing Inter and who are on the receiving end of many outgoing Roma players, welcomed back by Romanisti as if they were a part of the starting eleven again. The Siena president, appropriately named Massimo Mezzaroma, is a Romanista through and through, and he assures everyone that he wants his team to give their best. In fairness, Chievo president Luca Campedelli also happens to be an Interista, so an equal treatment should be guaranteed for both teams. But at least Siena sport two Roman youth products in their defence, Gianluca Curci and Aleandro Rosi, both of whom hope one day to return to the capital. The Giallorossi can count on them, if no-one else, to really play their hearts out. It’s unlikely to be enough, because – amongst other things – this writer considers Curci to be overrated, but it’s better than nothing. What else to say? Roma can only start hoping for another 5th of May.