One of the biggest ongoing rumours in the UK and Italy has been the will-he, won’t-he debate surrounding Carlo Ancelotti. Now I will avoid making a prediction about the likelihood of this move going ahead – some newspapers have Ancelotti already lining up summer signings for Stamford Bridge, and claim he has a contractual agreement – chances are neither of these things are true. La Repubblica claimed that President and Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi had blamed the seasons’ failings on the Coach, and his tactical decisions, and this has also made big headlines – but these reports were from a group of Italian tourists that allegedly chatted football with Berlusca on holiday in Egypt, so I don’t think we can say he is being pushed out. The only thing missing is of course the declaration from Ancelotti himself that he will certainly stay at the Rossoneri. And why? Well in my humble opinion, Carletto is still annoyed that the club hierarchy – Adriano Galliani and others – are dictating much of the transfer policy, signing at least two players he did not want last summer, in Ronaldinho and Shevchenko, and failing to find the world class centre-back that the club sorely needs. He has already made a stand against these powers from above tactically, openly acknowledging the tactical opinions and preferences of Berlusconi and Galliani, but not being persuaded to change his own. By allowing all this talk of moves to Chelsea, Real Madrid, Roma even, he is increasing his negotiating power (think Scolari flirting with the England job), and with this ability to decide at least the general transfer policy, he could be easily convinced to stay at the San Siro and get the hat-trick of Champions League trophies that he so desperately wants.
The weekend derby between Milan and Juventus saw Claudio Ranieri really putting his job on the line by making unpopular but brave decisions. The major one seems to be the freezing out of Alessandro Del Piero from the first team set-up. Ranieri decided that playing two out-and-out strikers was the best way to line-up against Milan, with Amauri partnered by Vincenzo Iaquinta. This was also set to be Pinturicchio’s 600th appearance for the Turin club, but Ranieri, fighting for his job, went ahead with dropping him and seemed to be justified in doing so. Iaquinta’s extra pace and power caused Milan problems, and got the all-important goal as well. Secondly, the rumour going around was that the mid-game argument that forced ‘keeper Buffon to charge out of the dressing room against Lecce, was centred around Ranieri and Mauro Camoranesi. As such there was much interest as to whether the winger would play any part – he did, and was one of the most important players, also setting up the goal. Ranieri is sure to get some more criticism before the end of the season and decisions may well have been made already, but if there is to be turnaround that saves his side second spot, then he will be very much responsible for it.
The fixture list has thrown up another six-pointer in the relegation fight, following last week’s 1-1 draw between Bologna and Torino. This time around it’s 18th versus 19th, as Bologna face Lecce, with just one point separating the two sides. The importance of this game of course cannot be understated, and Lecce President Giovanni Semeraro has spoken out this week against the refereeing decisions that he feels have gone against his side this year: “Pierluigi Collina should send down an ‘international’ level ref to direct the mother of all fights for survival,” and in fairness I would have to agree, especially regarding sending a top referee (referee’s have not yet been publicly assigned at the time of writing). A poor refereeing decision, the likes of which have already helped decide the race at the top (ok not solely), should not be allowed to decide the fate of which club stays up or goes down.
Elsewhere this week, the two form sides of Serie A go head-to-head on Saturday night (live on Omnisport.tv) as Udinese host Milan. Having avoided defeat last weekend, Milan are four points clear in second place and although in form, are very much inclined to take their foot off the pedal in situations like these. Udinese however are doing something they would surely not have thought possible a couple of months back, in fighting for a Europa League spot. Just four spots separate them and Roma, who currently occupy 6th place. Roma face Catania this weekend, whilst the other challengers for that spot, Palermo, play Lazio.
Genoa vs. Chievo – Flying Donkeys to continue Great Escape?
Fiorentina vs. Sampdoria – Heartbroken Samp hope to heal wounds in Florence
Club Focus – Juventus – Not over ’til the Old Lady sings
Club Focus – Roma – Much ado about nothing
Club Focus – Inter – Interisti made to play waiting game
Club Focus – Fiorentina – Holding their nerve
Watch Serie A Live