Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Stuart Harper On March - 31 - 2011

Roma-Juventus: Mirror Mirror On The Wall…

At first glance Roma and Juventus could not appear to be two more different clubs; hailing from two very different cities, one with a young former player as coach and the other with a well-travelled veteran of Calcio’s benches. A closer look however reveals each to be far more alike than either set of fans would care to admit. To explain these similarities we asked Stuart Harper and Adam Digby to give their opinion on four inescapable parallels.

Under New Management

Juventus are still technically controlled by the same investment company - Italian Industrial holdings firm EXOR - but last May their board took the decision to name Andrea Agnelli as President. This basically put the self-sufficient club in the hands of the son of former patron Umberto who in turn appointed Beppe Marotta as Director General. The former Sampdoria man has drastically cut the wage bill and reduced the average age of the squad, he has been widely criticised and this coming summer will undoubtedly define his Bianconeri tenure.

AS Roma are on the verge of a new dawn. For the first time in Serie A history, club is about to fall into foreign ownership should the American, Thomas Di Benedetto, finally acquire a controlling share in the Giallorossi. For Romanisti, the timing could not be better with Rosella Sensi unable to offer a suitably sized war chest for contract renewals and fresh acquisitions. Benedetto, a businessman with a broad portfolio of interests (including an interest in Liverpool’s new owners NESV), is reportedly prepared to release €60m for transfers – a prospect generating eager anticipation amongst i lupi tifosi.

Legendary Captains

Francesco Totti is headline news once more, and this time for all the right reasons. After last year’s ‘Balotelli incident’, together with a fractious relationship with Claudio Ranieri, life has been no bed of roses for il Capitano. However, after a virtuoso display against bitterest rivals Lazio along with his 200th and 201st career goals against Fiorentina, the talisman has returned – so much so that Vincenzo Montella is fielding a formation in which Totti is the hub once more.

Whilst sitting nineteen goals behind Totti’s remarkable 201 goals in Serie A - thanks largely to the season Juventus spent in Serie B - Alessandro Del Piero is every inch the Roman’s equal in terms of being his clubs talisman. Like Totti he has both scored more goals and played more games for his side than any player in history and like his counter-part he is still relied upon far too much by his team. Numerous players have been touted as his heir, but the Juve Captain shows no signs of slowing down, as his goal against Bresica proved.

Grazie Roma...

Terrible Fullbacks

The biggest disappointment in Turin this season has been the woeful contribution of Marco Motta, as the former Roma right-back has been a liability in almost every game he has featured. From his own goal against Fiorentina to the mindless sending off at Cesena, he has failed to impress in anyway since arriving on loan from Udinese. That his ineptitude has been mirrored on the other side of the pitch by Fabio Grosso only compounds the issue and Juve must hope Montella continues with the narrow formation seen since he took over from Ranieri.

Uncannily, Roma are plagued by the same weaknesses as Juventus – decidedly weak in the fullback berth. Down the left flank Riise remains eager to show attacking intent while leaving acres of vacant space in his wake. Offensively, Riise’s attacking forays have yielded little more than long range shots or speculative crosses; failing to compensate for the vulnerability created by his designated post left unguarded. On the right side, Montella has favoured the Argentine, Nicolás Burdisso and while recent performances have remained error free, the position remains an acute weakness.

Dangerous Wingmen

The arrival of Juventus may test Montella’s tactical credentials and may tease l’aeroplanino into tweaking the 4-2-3-1 formation which has so far gone unbeaten in the league. Given Juve’s distinct flank born frailties Montella may elect to recall Jeremy Menez into his starting XI. The mercurial Frenchman has fallen out of favour with Roma’s rookie coach, a development which led Menez to go public and vent his dissatisfaction in the French media. Quite possibly, Montella can rekindle relationships with Menez and exploit the opposition’s weakest spot in one fell swoop.

The man best placed to exploit that shared achilles heel is Serbian flyer Milos Krasic who has impressed greatly since his summer switch from CSKA Moscow. Despite struggling with both a reputation for diving and the obvious fatigue from playing two seasons without a break he is once more rounding into the devastating form he showed before the Winter Break. The common theory that he has been ‘found out’ will not apply as he missed the first match against Roma due to injury, he is the one player who may break open this game neither side can afford to lose.

Conclusion

The league table tells no lies – Roma and Juventus lie sixth and seventh and for a variety of reasons, and the similarities shared between both clubs is quite startling. While the initial focus falls on Milan this weekend, the battle between the Giallorossi and Bianconeri offers a fascinating and in many ways equally as vital subplot. This is simply a must win for both teams, and with a host of complexities at play, this is a game with huge, season defining ramifications. With so much at stake, it will make for essential viewing.

Stuart Harper

Freelance sports writer covering football, calcio & futbol. A Villa, Roma & Barca fan. Cycling too.

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