What to expect from the Coppa Italia

As the Coppa Italia resumed last week it was, typically, met with little fanfare. Crowds show their disapproval towards it with their feet. Coaches must groan when they realise coming up before a big match is a Coppa contest nobody seems to care about. It is probably the most unloved Cup competition of Europe’s major leagues, but that does not mean it is all doom and gloom.
The crowd figures must surely worry the authorities, not that they aim to turn the situation around. Would you rather hypothetically see Milan face Benevento in front of few disinterested souls at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza or at the more intimate and surely more packed Stadio Ciro Vigorito? Apparently those in charge want the former, judging by their scheduling, which places all seeds at home.
Conversely, the Coppa Italia presents an opportunity for those with something to prove. Often it gives fringe players a chance and is the breeding ground for tomorrow’s stars; experimentation is allowed and expected. The Coppa will prove an unwelcome distraction to sides in Europe who are focused on more lofty aspirations (and especially those like Napoli and Udinese who struggle with depth in two competitions, let alone three) and for sides chasing promotion, should they make it through the early rounds.
It can be a testing ground for new tactical systems or greater freedom, with coaches releasing the shackles placed in the league. Genoa’s enthralling and dramatic win against Bari last week is testament to that. 185 goals have been scored in 57 matches so far, an average of 3.25 per match – greater than the average in Serie A (279 goals from 118 matches, 2.36 per match) and Serie B (440 goals from 176 matches, 2.5 per match), admittedly, with divisional discrepancy.
In its way experimentation adds to the ever-dwindling care factor; but as far as this season is concerned, there are a few teams who could make an impact. Two sides looking to prove their credentials are Juventus and Roma. With no European commitments and considering the size of the respective squads, the Coppa could be a launching pad for some players. In Turin, it may be where Eljero Elia and Marcelo Estigarribia get their Bianconeri careers up and running. Frederik Sorensen will look to continue his progress from last season. In Rome, Stefano Okaka and Fabio Borini will aim to prove they are worthy of a longer run in the first-team. Italy U18 player Gianluca Caprari featured in the Europa League but could be afforded more minutes. Both sides head the all-time winners list with nine and one more triumph would ensure a silver star on the jersey.
New Fiorentina boss Delio Rossi showed his early pledge to the Cup by fielding a strong side against Empoli. It included Riccardo Montolivo, Alessio Cerci and Juan Vargas. While it must be noted he is early into his reign and looking for his best eleven, Rossi has a proven record in the competition, leading Lazio to victory in 2008/09 and Palermo to the final last season. The Sicilian side was followed by an estimated 50,000 fans in the final in Rome, proof that people do care, eventually.
With a format that seems to please nobody, it will have its detractors. Yet, whilst there can be improvements made to spice up the ugly duckling of the calcio world, there are some intriguing factors to look forward to when watching the Coppa Italia. Just keep searching.

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