Each week Tim mixes tales of his experiences of living in Italy with comments on the past week’s major talking points whilst also looking ahead to the coming weekend’s biggest games. Enjoy…
Silvio Berlusconi has once again hit the headlines this week with a stereotypical faux-pas, this time at the expense of the newly elected President of the United States, Barack Obama. This inappropriate and racially centered joke is not something that comes as much of a surprise to anyone who has followed the career of the three-time Prime Minister of Italy. After all, who can forget his performance at the European Parliament, when he “amused” the court by likening a German Socialist M.E.P. to a Nazi concentration camp guard. Let’s hope that these racist “jokes” don’t damage the relationship between Italy, the USA and the rest of Europe.
Sinisa Mihajlovic, himself no stranger to past controversies surrounding racist remarks, was announced as the new Coach of Bologna this week, replacing the man who got the Rossoblu promoted last season, Daniele Arrigoni. Having spent his time of late on the Inter bench, learning from Roberto Mancini in the last three years, the former Lazio defender came as a surprise choice in a country where coaches often have to prove their abilities with smaller clubs first. Walter Zenga, for example, has done just that, having spent time in Romania and Serbia amongst other places, and he seems to be reaping the rewards of this with Catania. It remains to be seen how the lack of coaching experience will affect Mihajlovic. But if there is an example to follow, it would be that of his former mentor Mancini, himself an early entrant to the Serie A coaching circuit.
This week we heard directly from the company, SportXchange, that they will be showing this season’s Coppa Italia all the way up until the final. This site has been closely following the situation regarding Calcio on television, and was as disappointed as you when no-one came forward to take up Serie A coverage for this season after Five dropped out. But this move by a smaller satellite and internet channel may signal a more promising future and a move to more exciting times with the online aspect. The viewing figures for these upcoming games will surely not exceed the league figures that deemed Serie A coverage unsustainable for the likes of Bravo and Setanta, but a significant number of fans will tune in, especially if the games are broadcast on the internet too. This season can now be used as a testing ground for both SportXchange, and other internet/satellite companies, eventually leading to where I imagine Serie A coverage may be headed next season – online.
In Europe, the Italian clubs have really shown the rest of Europe that the Italian league is once again gaining strength, and fast. Roma have been struggling in the league this year, perhaps inevitably with such a small squad, but what better way to kick-start their season than with a convincing victory over one of the favourites for the Champions League, Chelsea. The spirit showed by i Lupi was commendable, but it is hard not too give most of the credit to Mirko Vucinic for his two fantastic goals.
The same goes for Alex Del Piero and Juventus. Real Madrid had significant spells of possession, but somewhat surprisingly lacked the killer touch in front of goal. Del Piero’s pin-point 25-yard strike in the first half, added to by another trademark free-kick in the second, led the Old Lady to one of their best European nights of the decade. Having just turned 34, he continues to amaze.
Saturday will see a very intriguing encounter between Bologna and Roma, as the aforementioned Mihajlovic will take charge of his side for the first time, at home to a possibly reinvigorated Roma side. This is however, on the face of it a battle at the bottom, with just two places and two points separating the sides. It is certainly a must-win game if the Giallorossi are going to get anything out of this season.
Current league leaders Milan will see this weekend as the perfect opportunity to build an advantage over their nearest rivals with a trip to Lecce. Carlo Ancelotti’s men will be looking to pick up three points in the evening game and capitalise on guaranteed dropped points from at least one of the chasing pack as Inter play Udinese. Third hosts second in that game as Jose Mourinho faces one of the most intriguing tests of his short Nerazzurri career to date. Elsewhere, fourth-placed Napoli prepare for a tricky, if not fascinating, face-off with Sampdoria. Samp will be looking to kick-start their stuttering campaign in Naples, whilst the home side look to revitalise their bright start that faltered slightly after last weekend’s disappointing loss to Milan. Fifth place Lazio dropped points in both meetings last season with their Week 11 opponents Siena, whilst Juventus are the only other title-aspiring side who stand to benefit from an easier game, against Chievo.
Milan and Juve would regret any failure to pick up all three points in their respective games, where all that is needed is a professional approach. If things go wrong and they come out of the weekend red-faced – as the Italian Prime Minister will tell you – they’ll only have themselves to blame.