Defeat at Catania before the winter break ended Roma’s eight game unbeaten streak and left them languishing nine points adrift of the fourth Champions League spot. A negative result against Milan will further dent their aspirations and make it extremely difficult for them to bridge the gaping crevice. Milan meanwhile still harbour long-shot title hopes of their own, but if they are to lift the Scudetto, the Rossoneri must catch city rivals Inter. Carlo Ancelotti’s all-stars will be in no mood for dropping points in the Eternal City. What this all adds up to of course is the potential for a game with an all out attacking approach that will have respective Coaches Luciano Spalletti and Ancelotti on and off their seats.
Luciano Spalletti vs. Carlo Ancelotti
A draw won’t do either side any favours and whilst the onus to attack is on the home team, the visitor’s have some of the most fearsome forwards in the business and their ability to counter at pace is frightening. If either Coach opts for a cautious approach, the contest may not fulfill its explosive potential, but realistically, if their respective teams are to reach the pinnacles set for them, they have no alternative other than to start taking risks.
Daniele De Rossi vs. Kaka
De Rossi is as effective playing offensively as he is defensively, but with Kaka lurking will be reluctant to venture too far forward and leave the Brazilian with space to exploit. Given time on the ball, the Milan maestro can be devastating and the Roma midfielder, born and bred in the Eternal City, will not want to disappoint in front of his fellow Romans. On the score sheet twice against Udinese, Kaka looks to be regaining his goal-scoring touch.
Juan vs. Alexandre Pato
Milan wonderkid Pato is another who is returning to goal-scoring ways after netting three times in his previous two outings. If he is to add to his tally of six on Sunday however, he must first overcome Brazilian counterpart Juan. After a nervy spell earlier in the season, the Giallorossi centreback is regaining his form and looking like a solid partner alongside Philippe Mexes in the heart of the Roma defense. He has reasonable pace, but is not as quick as his compatriot and if he allows the Rossoneri forward to get in behind him the capital team could find themselves in serious trouble.
Matteo Brighi vs. David Beckham
Beckham has impressed in training and amidst much speculation where he will slot into the Rossoneri line-up, Ancelotti has twice dropped less than subtle hints the on loan star could feature, if not start against the Giallorossi. Beck’s has immense vision and the pacey Milan forwards will revel in the quality of his pin-point accuracy. Brighi will have to work hard to close the England hopeful down to prevent him from picking out a killer ball. The Roma man has been in inspired form himself of late and Golden Balls will also have his work cut out containing the talented and versatile Italian, who like his midfield counterpart De Rossi, is equally adept at switching between defense and attack.
Julio Baptista vs. Kakha Kaladze
With Francesco Totti sidelined through injury, Julio Baptista will be asked to lead the Roma line. The tall Brazilian may not have the flair and elegance of his captain, but what he lacks in guile, he more than makes up for in brute strength and will give Milan’s aging backline a torrid time. The Rossoneri have looked unconvincing in the air and the Giallorossi front man will look for opportunities to capitalise on their lack of confidence or hesitancy on crosses from wide positions. With the ball at his feet Kaladze can expect to contain the big man, but will be relying on his fullbacks to stem the flow of crosses into the box to prevent him getting in ahead of them.
Mirko Vucinic vs. Paolo Maldini
Vucinic has impressed since his move from Lecce and can be expected to get stronger the longer the season continues. It will be interesting to see how the players perform following the winter break, but we can be assured there will be no lack of commitment or passion from the Roma front man or the experienced Rossoneri defender. Maldini’s illustrious career may well come to end once the season is over and he is determined to end it on a high note. For all the Montenegrin’s skill and guile, he will not find much room for manoeuvre against Milan’s talismanic captain and if he is to add to his Serie A tally of four, will need to drop deep and look for help from his teammates in finding a route to goal.
Roma Tifosi vs. Milan Tifosi
Far be it for Football Italiano to get involved in a debate over which side has the best support or to distinguish between the two, but it’s safe to say that a packed Stadio Olimpico will be rocking with vociferous exuberance from both sets of fans. The Roma faithful may not share the same opinion of the peninsula’s best players as their Milan counterparts, but one thing they do have in common is a passion to see the game played with attacking flair. Both teams will line-up packed with world-class contributors and the excitement for this mouth-watering prospect is impossible to contain. Following the winter break, this much anticipated contest will play out within a wall of noise and should it live up to its billing, paying spectators will certainly get their money’s worth.