Tuesday, April 03, 2007

preview: roma-man united

Item: We only just realized that Sevilla are going to be in the Champions' League next year. Score. That team rocks louder than sixty-something superbands in the Wembley in the early nineties.


Ignoring the Bayern-Milan match tonight, as we have not our smelling salts to hand, we thought it was time to take a look at how things have been leading up to the Roma-Manchester United game, alternately touted as an easier go than even PSV-Liverpool and more exciting than Jagger and Richards in the same dress. We had the opportunity to catch Milan play Roma over the weekend and found it far more exciting than anything on offer from their opponents. Still, playing Blackburn will do that a a team, one expects (Don't say no, we're Arsenal fans).

Milan escaped, of course, borne on the successful return of the man who was once the other prince of Rome, Alessandro Nesta, and a blatant dive from the canny Ronaldo that earned Milan an Andrea Pirlo free kick which, surprisingly enough, was converted. By Gilardino.

... yeah.

Roma played their natural game, throwing everything forward and dazzling the rheumy eyes of their opponents. Punditry seems to believe that this will not be the case in the first leg of the QFs, to be played out in the Stadio Olimpico on Thursday night. Roma's strategy against Lyon involved them pulling off the ugly, gritty defensive style with equal aplomb before proceeding to demolish them in the away leg in France. Now this might work against Man U, in as much as anything ever works against what is undoubtedly Europe's best football team. It often pleases us to see how United succeeds so well in becoming greater than the sum of its parts, which is, alright, probably a necessary feat when your parts include such characters as Wayne Rooney and Gary Neville.

As always, one cannot help but mention Fergiemort, that red-nosed glue that manages to hold the baby Bentleys, and a lot of their older counterparts together (seriously, do you see why Henrik Larsson was a breath of fresh air to this man?) After he singled out Daniele de Rossi - who put in a very creditable performance in the Nazionale's win against Scotland last week - and Amantino Mancini for praise when asked about his opponents, Fergie aroused the wrath of the most easily miffed man in Serie A, the singular (and aren't we grateful for it!) Francesco Totti.

Although Sir Alex was grace itself on the subject of Roma's bandiere later in the week, calling him the "architect" of his side and key to everything United threw at Roma, the wrath of Totters, to whom the Guardian also paid glowing tribute earlier, was awakened enough for him to make yet another go at tickling his tonsils with his toes.

“I hope I will make him remember my name. They are planning to ‘cage’ me? My opponents have always tried to do this with me, maybe when I grow up I will work in a zoo, I am used to cages!” added the world champion.

We do believe we would love this man if we had woken up on the right side of bed the day we were made aware of his existence.

We know United is having serious problems in defence - with Nemanja Vidic out injured, the only man over there capable of so much as being noticed by an on-form Roma is the lovely Gabriel Heinze. Unless Rio Ferdinand takes something that makes him hesitant to pee into a cup after it's all over, we cannot see him pose much of a problem to Roma's centre-forwards. What will be interesting to see is how Roma's relatively inexperienced but tight back line will cope with United's own midfield.

The odds are atill stacked against the Italians, of course, simply because with all their problems, United are capable of putting the fear of Ferg into the hearts of braver men. We only hope that the contest is as worthy as we can make it.

Endnote: And because we can't but display our partisanship yet again, we will drop the first-person plural for the first time in living memory to say: Milan, tu sei tutta la vita mia.

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