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…
As we move into the depths of winter, the fantastic variations in Italian whether come to prominence. Whilst in Sicily the festive celebrations have been accompanied by a very comfortable 15 degrees, the North has been struck by the heaviest snowfall in 15 years, with temperatures well below freezing. Indeed the icy pavements are causing many Milano natives to collapse to the ground untouched in a manner that Pippo Inzaghi could be proud of. Indeed these are conditions that the winter break in Italy was designed in part to avoid, but such is the will of mother nature, some of the weekends games could be played in the coldest temperatures of the year.
The snow ploughs in action this week were much like Inter’s recent performances in Serie A – nothing standing in it’s way had much of a chance, nor put up a significant fight. Instead they were easily pushed aside by a machine that exerts lots of power, but barely gets out of the lower gears. Leaving the analogy, Jose Mourinho’s men have showed in the first half of the season that not only are they good enough to win the Scudetto comfortably, but more that they know how to and that they are cleverer than their main challengers. And little looks set to change. One team from Juve or Milan may push them along for a certain amount of time, and they may overcome the holders in the return matches, but they will have to win the unspectacular games, just as Inter will more likely than not manage at home to Cagliari on Saturday night.
With the winter break now over, players have had the opportunity to recharge their batteries after a gruelling first half of the season. The first games back this weekend will give us an opportunity to see if the break came just in time to save one or two clubs from further damaging their seasons. The refreshing, exciting and entertaining beginning to the season saw Napoli, Udinese and Lazio fighting over Champions League places. Individuals from these teams have certainly increased their worth in this time, with Inler, Lavezzi and Hamsik all being heavily linked to the Premier League. However just as the winter break was in sight they lost their composure, and have struggled in the past 6 matches. Having had time to regroup these sides may find they get a second chance of sorts, which starts this weekend, as they all have very winnable games – Napoli vs. Catania, Reggina vs. Lazio and Udinese vs. Sampdoria.
One man who has been making headlines on and off the pitch, as always, is Antonio Cassano. His impressive performances have led to him being linked with the big time once more this week. Tuttosport, the Turin based sports daily, reported on Thursday that it was a fight between Inter and Juventus, but that the Bianconeri will win out and bring the Bari Bomber to Piedmonte. The theory is that even if Cassano likes Mourinho as a manager, the Nerazzurri will need to offload the inconsistent and frankly troublesome Adriano before any deal can be done. This leaves Juventus, who feel he fits into the mould of a Juve player perfectly, as Ranieri searches for long-term replacements for Del Piero and Nedved. If he wants it, this could be the opportunity for him to become a great, but there will have to be a lot less Cassanate (“Cassano moments”), and a lot more hard work.
On Sunday night Roma host Milan in the big game of Week 18. The Rossoneri cannot afford to have a slow start to the second half of the season, like they did with the first. A defeat even in this high pressure, highly important game could spell the end of the title race barring a Beneamata collapse akin to what almost happened last year. But whereas Roma go into the game in generally good form, Milan would not be any more the favourites if they had anything more than indifferent form; Ancelotti always raises his players for the big games – sometimes it works for them, like against Inter, and other times not – Juve. However no matter how good the results of the last two months for the Giallorossi, we are still talking about a side that lost its last game to Catania. They are not quite at Juventus’ level, and for many, myself included, Milan can keep the wolves at bay.
Roma: Doni, Casetti, Mexes, Juan, Riise Perrotta De Rossi Brighi Pizarro Aquilani Vucinic
Milan: Abbiati Zambrotta Kaladze Maldini Jankulovski Seedorf Pirlo Ambrosini Kakà Ronaldinho Pato
For more on this game be sure to check out the excellent previews here:
Roma vs. Milan – a history of champions’ destinies deeply entwined
Chaos theory in practice – Roma vs. Milan tactical breakdown
Roma vs. Milan – Key clashes