Italian Serie A and the European Champions League have started, and AS Roma went into both competitions with high expectations, and something to prove.
In Serie A last season Rome finished second, which is a well-beyond respectable showing for one of the finest football leagues in the world. But it was a distant second. Inter Milan ran away with the title, but are unlikely to do so this year. Competition will be fierce and Rome will be encouraged by their strong start.
Last season’s Champions League campaign was for them a fairytale. They only made it into the Champions League due to the Calciopoli scandal that rocked Italian football in spring 2006. Having only managed to squeak in under these unusual circumstances they proceeded to mount an impressive campaign, not only progressing out of the group stage but taking out the favored French side Lyon in the round of 16. Unfortunately the fairy tale was one of the original Brothers Grimm ones.
In the next round, after putting on an impressive display at home against Manchester United, they again looked set to play giant killer. However (this is the Brothers Grimm part) they got eaten in spectacularly gory fashion by that very same giant they seemed on the verge of besting, in the form of a 7-1 drubbing at Old Trafford. It is not a result anyone is soon to forget.
Over the summer they lost one half of their (usually) indomitable centerbacks, the Romanian Christian Chivu. However, they compensated by picking up some talent, acquiring forward Giuly from Barcelona (who looks like he’s settling in after shanking some gift-wrapped chances over the bar in his Roma debut). They’ve also solidified their defense with the acquisition of Juan from Bayer 04 Leverkeusen, and Cicinho from Real Madrid. The addition of some more skilled Brazilians (to add to Doni, Mancini and Taddei) gives Roma a eye-catching mix of Italian finesse and Brazilian flair that adds up to relentless, and relentlessly exciting, attacking football.
And this squad seems to be coming together brilliantly: they earned some back from Serie A scudetto winners Inter Milan in the form of a Supercoppa victory in August, and have begun the domestic season with an impressive 3-0 record. The entire squad, and especially Captain Francesco Totti (last years Golden Boot winner) showing themselves well-capable of finding the back of the net when needed.
Wednesday nights Champions League tilt against Dynamo Kyiv showed a squad that is never short of attacking ideas and still stingy in their own end. Kyiv was fortunate to only have surrendered two goals, as Roma also hit two posts and continually threatened. Indeed, there is much to be optimistic about for fans of the club, but undeniably the real test will come on Champions League Matchday 2, when Roma must again face Manchester.
It’s a season that promises big things for Rome, but they know, as does the whole footballing world, that for them to achieve, they must purge those memories of last seasons ignoble crash out of the competition. Watch for it.