The international week has proven successful for the Azzurri, who will now more than likely be on their way to South Africa come the summer. A battling, unconvincing victory over Georgia, and then the performance of the year at home to Bulgaria on Wednesday. The latter was very encouraging for fans and players alike, to see that the ability and potential is still there. Admittedly they were only playing Bulgaria, but some of the play would have outfoxed many a better side. On an individual level, Coach Marcello Lippi has selection problems of the right kind. After Domenico Criscito impressed at left-back on Saturday, Fabio Grosso, the World Cup-winning full-back, turned in a vintage display. Indeed the new Juventus man nearly picked up a man-of-the-match award, rare for a player in his position, but justified after a solid game defensively, and a devastating attacking display as well, linking up well with Andrea Pirlo and Vincenzo Iaquinta on the left flank. The only man better was Milan playmaker Pirlo. They say a good midfielder is one that looks like he always has time when he is on the ball. Pirlo must be great then. He was asked to play his old, pre-Milan role behind the two strikers Iaquinta and Gilardino, in dare I say it, the ideal Antonio Cassano role, and he pulled it off perfectly, linking midfield with attack, and creating a fluidity that was missing in recent Italy games. Lippi will of course now be thinking himself very much justified for his decision to exclude Cassano from his squad, as although we may all want to see the Bari man on the pitch, sometimes the World Cup winning Coach knows better.
Straight after the game, seeing the success of Andrea Pirlo playing behind the strikers, there was the obvious question that would come up regarding him moving into the same role for Milan, who for some are in crisis, and for others are one point behind their recent conquerors Inter, in another period of transition. This would probably signal the bench for Ronaldinho, as the two strikers ahead of Pirlo would be from Marco Borriello, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Alexandre Pato. Everyone seems very keen to see Ronaldinho fail, however he has impressed at times in pre-season. No-one really impressed against the Nerazzurri, and to bench the Brazilian so soon would be a mistake in my opinion from Leonardo. I expect to see Pirlo back in the heart of the Milan midfield against Livorno on Saturday, and if the Rossoneri Coach wants to keep his job, he probably doesn’t want to stop playing Silvio Berlusconi’s favourite player.
The coming week will also see Champions League football returning, starting with the France vs. Italy round, as Juventus host Bordeaux, Milan are away to Marseille, and Fiorentina face Lyon. Some excellent games to start off, however there is no ignoring the tie of the round, as Inter play at home to Champions League holders Barcelona. Zlatan Ibrahimovic may have been greeted at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza with just a lukewarm reaction after doing little to hide his desire to move on in the summer. However he has angered fans with his statement that: “Before I joined, Inter had not won for 17 years, when I arrived we won three League titles on the trot. And I was only there for three years…” Now, without debating whether this may actually be true, it is a surefire way to get enemies, prompting the reply from Curva Nord leader Franco Caravita that “He behaves like a mercenary and as such deserves only our indifference.” Ibra will be happy to be treated with indifference when he makes his return on Wednesday – however I don’t think he will be so lucky.
This weekend’s return to Serie A brings up some more top ties. Roma will play their first game post-Luciano Spalletti, as Claudio Ranieri’s men travel to Tuscany to face Siena. One of the top games of the weekend sees Juventus, fresh from defeating Bulgaria, play away to Lazio. The Biancoceleste will not be happy to hear that the Juve player that has impressed so much since signing in the summer, Diego, is only playing at 70% of his ability according to Juve president Giovanni Cobolli Gigli. That 70% was certainly enough to leave the red side of Rome without an answer. At the San Siro, Inter face a Parma side whose star striker, on-loan Milan man Alberto Paloschi, has impressed on Under-21 duty, scoring against Wales. However, Jose Mourinho’s men will of course be full of confidence, and it is theirs to lose.
Saturday September 12, 2009
Livorno vs. Milan – 17.00
Lazio vs. Juventus – 19.45 –
Sunday September 13, 2009
Atalanta vs. Sampdoria – 14.00 –
Bologna vs. Chievo – 14.00
Fiorentina vs. Cagliari – 14.00
Inter vs. Parma – 14.00 –
Palermo vs. Bari – 14.00
Siena vs. Roma – 14.00
Udinese vs. Catania – 14.00 –
Genoa vs. Napoli – 19.45
Gazzetta Football Italiano
Week 2 –
Welcome back – August 28, 2009
International Week –
Spalletti stutters out – September 4, 2009
Week 3 –
Serie A heats up, Champions League returns with a bang too – September 11, 2009