More injuries, more problems and the dramas continue at the Stadio Olimpico. Chilean midfielder David Pizarro broke down in training and looks certain to miss the weekend match against Lecce. The controversial substitutions of Francesco Totti and Mirko Vucinic hinted that further difficulties loomed for Claudio Ranieri and signals from the English Premiership that the Giallorossi’s players could be ripe for the picking have all provided plenty of writing material for sport journalists. Whether any of these mutterings will turn into something concrete is highly unlikely but we will look at these issues in turn and make our own conclusions.
Pizarro’s muscular injury is certainly a massive blow to Ranieri. He has been Roma’s most consistent performer in a very incoherent team throughout this troublesome season. During a simple keep-ball exercise on Tuesday, the playmaker felt a sharp pain after completing a short sprint and had to be put on the electric cart and taken back to the changing rooms. There is a risk the injury could see him out for the rest of 2010. If it is a simple sciatic issue, the prognosis is not so bad. The red and yellow half of Rome will be hoping this is the case as the geometric passing skills that Pizarro brings to the team are quite irreplaceable.
We intimated that the Vucinic and Totti substitutions during the Parma game may have caused some ructions but thankfully this has not been the case. Totti certainly has not made any issue of it (maybe he is getting accustomed to being subbed?). Some hot air did appear to come from the Montenegrin camp, as supposedly Vucinic did not accept being replaced with much grace. It was reported he kicked a water bottle on his way to the bench and felt he had been treated unfairly. Those poor water bottles always take the brunt of these disapproving players! His actions were then interpreted as overtures towards a potential split between Roma and Vucinic with Inter and Liverpool the first in the queue should the striker make his desire to leave public. A series of events that has spiralled into column inches of supposed discontentment. Are we really to believe that one substitution should constitute enough reason to want to leave your club? Such talk has now evaporated as Vucinic looks to be a certain starter against his former club Lecce. Here at Club Focus, we refuse to be drawn into such futile debates. We do not expect the Roma forward to be wearing anything other than the shirt he currently does now, for the foreseeable future.
Daniele De Rossi has overcome his injury problems but still looks likely to miss this week’s match in favour of being fully ready for the derby with Lazio. Calf injuries are notorious for recurring even if all seems well and the Roma medical staff are quite rightly easing him back slowly. It would make no sense for him to play this Saturday and risk tweaking the muscle once more. With Pizarro missing, the sustained return of ‘Capitan Futuro’ is critical. The Italian international has also been subject of enquiries by Premiership clubs as Roma’s season continues to stutter. Manchester United have been long term admirers of the tough midfielder but for Roma to sell him would be a huge gamble and surely not worth a penny of the millions of Euros it would no doubt take to prise him away. Keeping him is a sign of the continuing ambition of the club and he is a symbol to the fans. It would not go down well with them, not for all the espresso in Italy.
Looking ahead to the Lecce game, Fabio Simplicio could get the start he has been desperately waiting for in the Pizarro role. He did not impress in his position just behind the strikers last week, so maybe he can provide a better performance at the base of the midfield. As we discussed, De Rossi is likely to be spared and so Matteo Brighi will continue to deputise. Laterally, Simone Perrotta is expected to play on the right of midfield and Vucinic on the left. Marco Borriello and Totti will again lead the line, with Er Pupone hoping to finally get on the score sheet as his barren spell in front of goal trundles on.
Julio Sergio could return as he has made startling progress since his ankle micro fracture. A reborn Philippe Mexes should again demote Nicolas Burdissso to the bench following his swashbuckling efforts last time out. A good Roman team really does need an in-form Mexes. The formation looks set to be 4-4-2 again, even though, as discussed in our Club Focus, we do have reservations as to its effectiveness given the players at Ranieri’s disposal. We can judge its effectiveness next week.