So all of the Italian clubs are now out of Europe’s premier competition, all knocked out by English clubs. Yet this hides the fact that Serie A has shown an improvement this year in their ability to compete with the Premier League sides. All three games were close affairs – Juventus may have got the result they wanted had they received some luck on their side, Roma more than held their own against an Arsenal side on the decline, and Inter played commendably and could have gone through if only they’d converted hitting the woodwork into hitting the back of the net. But upon reflection, whilst all of the Italian sides could have won, the fact remains that none of them had that killer element, that Rooney type player that can change the result. This has different consequences for the different teams. Juve and Roma have achieved in playing like they did against their wealthier opposition, but in the battle of the rich boys it is a failure that Inter are out again. Moratti effectively wrote Mourinho a blank cheque, and only started raising his eyebrows when a move for Ricardo Quaresma was on the cards – and even then sanctioned that transfer. The decision by Mourinho to start the season without securing one or two big players has born it’s fruit in the lack of a killer touch against Man Utd. He knows this, and maybe has done all season, and this is the reason why he is increasingly hyper-defensive when asked any questions by the Italian media.
On a domestic front, the big news of the week was that Edy Reja, the Napoli Coach had been sacked on the back of 10 winless games, taking 2 points 30. The decision was inevitable, even if it was regrettable for the many supporters of Reja, the man who had led the Partenopei from Serie C1 to the UEFA Cup. He was immediately replaced with former Italy boss Roberto Donadoni. The new Coach has not really proven himself as of yet, with good 9th place finish in charge of Livorno being his best achievement – but that was enough for the FIGC (Italian Football Federation) to give him Italy’s top job. Now Donadoni will have to get to grips with a different kind of job to that he held as Coach of the national team. The Stadio San Paulo can be a very intimidating place, as much for members of the playing staff as it is for the opposition, and the fans are amongst the most passionate in the Peninsula. What it is however, is the big club job that will make or break his short-term management career, and that jumping the gun somewhat, will be the difference between his next job being at Milan or Modena.
This weekend Donadoni has his first opportunity to turn things around, and probably couldn’t ask for more than an away tie to bottom placed Reggina. Inter will look to forget their Champions League departure by playing yet another high-profile televised game, this time against Fiorentina. If the Nerazzurri start slowly, you can be sure that Prandelli’s men will not. Also, not underestimating the psychological effect of Wednesday night in Manchester, la Viola can help keep the title race, and their Champions League qualification campaign, very much alive come Sunday night. Juve also has a home tie, against Bologna and their Serie A leading scorer Marco Di Vaio, whilst Milan, who have even been playing friendlies recently to make up for their lack of European football, will play away to Siena.