It seems that all roads are leading to Rome for Saturday evening’s title showdown between Roma and Inter. To sum up last night, the Nerazzurri beat Livorno, the Giallorossi won in Bologna and Milan lost in Parma. Corriere Dello Sport’s headline on Thursday morning read “Inter and Roma are flying – Saturday is the challenge of the year”. Well, it’s not like the Italian press to exaggerate anything is it?
In the tranquil setting of the San Siro, Inter despatched Livorno 3-0 with Samuel Eto’o returning to top form with a brace – the second strike a sumptuous overhead kick. The biggest ovation of the evening was saved for Christian Chivu, who made his first start since the sickening injury which left him with a fractured skull earlier in the campaign. The Romanian defender was clearly overcome by the occasion and, when he was asked if he had had any fear returning, he said: “No I did not have any fear but I was very emotional”explained Chivu. “The last time I felt like this was when I made my debut for the national team at Euro 2000”. As he removed the skull cap he had worn for protection, the scars of his ordeal were there for all to see. Having predicted earlier this week that Livorno coach Serse Cosmi was heading for the exit in Tuscany, last night’s game was surely his last at the helm of the Amaranto, the team lying four points off the pace at the foot of Serie A.
Leonardo was typically philosophical after seeing his AC Milan side concede an 89th minute goal to Parma in a bad tempered affair at the Ennio Tardini. The Brazilian told the press: “Tonight we played a first half below par and struggled a great deal to emerge from Parma’s pressure. Even when we had the ball we didn’t quite have a clear idea what to do with it. After the break we were hungrier and created some great chances. We thought of a different performance, as the idea was to pass the ball around and reach the box with the ball to feet”. The game was littered with flashpoints, most notably in the 77th minute when a touchline brawl broke out earning Ronaldinho a yellow card and a suspension for the visit of Lazio on Sunday. Valeri Bojinov netted late on to end Milan’s unbeaten record at the Tardini which stretches back to 2003. There was still time for a final sending off, as Andrea Pirlo saw red for an act of petulance deep into injury time. The next few days will be a time of reflection at Milanello.
In the capital, the Roma-supporting sports daily, Il Romanista, seemed to forget that the Giallorossi had a match to play in Bologna before Saturday’s visit of the champions. A special match pullout was advertised for Friday’s edition as reports of the clamour for tickets dominated the front pages. After John Arne Riise had stuck a foot out to deflect Daniele De Rossi’s wayward effort and substitute Julio Baptista had combined with another substitute, Alessandro Cerci, to secure the game in the final ten minutes, all thoughts turned to the big showdown at the weekend. “To dream” adorned the front page on Thursday morning as Scudetto hysteria hit one half of the Eternal city. In short, Roma were poor at the Renato Dall’Ara, Jeremy Menez returned to being…well, Jeremy Menez, and Mirko Vucinic looked tired before being replaced by Baptista. Philippe Mexes, in for the suspended Juan, looked nervous from the first whistle and will surely return to the bench on Saturday. With prodigal son Francesco Totti looking to play some part in Saturday’s blockbuster, Giallorossi fans will hope that their side can stay calm as the sense of anticipation reaches fever pitch by Saturday evening.
Another Thursday night and another horror show for Juventus, this time at the hands of Napoli. It all looked so good after 3 minutes when Giorgio Chiellini headed the Bianconeri in front. But of course, this is a Juventus side lacking in self-belief and, after the interval, they crumbled as Napoli finally ended its winless run which had stretched back to January. Coach Alberto Zaccheroni must take some of the blame for The Old Lady’s demise. At the San Paolo, with 25 minutes to go and the scores level, he chose to replace Alessandro Del Piero with Zdenek Grygera, effectively reverting to a three man defence – something he tried unsuccessfully against Ajax in the Europa League. The team disintegrated as Fabio Quagliarella and Ezequiel Lavezzi finished the game off to claim all three points for the Partnopei. The team is a shambles, with its biggest stars seemingly sulking around the pitch feeling sorry for themselves. After the match club president Jean-Claude Blanc raged: “If the season finishes like this we are all to blame and changes must be made, even with the directors”. This summer could be one of the most important in the clubs history.