They say you have never tasted Guinness until you have tried a pint pulled in Dublin. Well a similar thing can be said for Parmesan cheese and Prosciutto ham from Parma. Having ventured south of Milan last weekend on extended family duty, I took the opportunity to visit the small city of Parma. The city was recently voted as the number one place in Italy for standard of living, based no doubt on the very peaceful way of life, beautiful architecture, regal history, and of course benefiting from the culinary prowess that Emilia Romagna is famous for (and that I can now attest). Next on the list was another hour south, to Bologna. Upon stepping off the train in these more laid back cities, I would make my way out of the station and then remind myself that I did not need to be walking at the fast Milanese pace that I have become accustomed to. Milan has many great attributes, but it is not often somewhere you go to relax. Bologna instead can be. This medieval city is one of the most interesting in Italy, with its archway-lined streets, lively atmosphere, and famous leaning towers (ok not as famous as Pisa but this one has some significant lean-age!). My time there, as it always does, felt like being in another Italy, one different to that of Milan, but just one of many variations that can be found in the Peninsula.
Turning our attention to Serie A, this weekend sees Juventus take a trip south to Rome, where both sides at the top end of the table look to maintain the pressure on sides directly above them. Juventus and Roma will both need all three points come Saturday night if they are going to have ambitions of reaching their targets of the Scudetto and Champions League respectively. However, the pressure would seem to be just a little more on the Bianconeri. A defeat away from home would mean that if the title race is not already finished with a lead of seven points, as Mourinho believes, then it certainly will be. Roma instead would still have a fighting chance of grabbing fourth spot from Genoa and Fiorentina if they were to be defeated, but it would become much more difficult. Whilst Juventus are not without their own injuries, Roma will likely be without Totti, Perrotta, De Rossi, Pizarro, Taddei, Juan, Cassetti, Cicinho and Aquilani, amongst others too. All this would seem to put Juventus as favourites, but with that tag comes the pressure, and away from home in the Olimpico, Rome, we could see the end of title race this weekend.
At the other end of the table, things are far from clear-cut, and destiny remains in the hands of all of the bottom six sides. The likes of Bologna, Torino and Lecce can, and should, take inspiration from Chievo who have lost just one game since the January break, when they were in 19th place. Lecce instead are bottom of the form table with just one lonely point from their last six, and need to turn that around sooner rather than later when the side three points ahead of them has the league’s top scorer in Bologna’s Marco Di Vaio. As for Reggina? The bottom placed side have drawn three in a row, but their reward for that will be a cross country trip to Milan to face the likely Champions. A time for heroes maybe.