Tonights the night of the Champions League Quarterfinal between AS Roma and Man U.
This is Roma’s first trip to the Champions league quarterfinals and my first as well. Tonight we will be at an Irish Bar with a bunch of Man U fans. Man U fans, I might add, who will be supremely confident in their chances of success. Man U is first in the Premiership and won the FA Cup; they will be keen to continue their winning ways.
Roma though, is a much better story.
The team costs a sliver of what Man U does, they can only afford a player of Totti’s calibre because Totti will play nowhere else. They runneth over with under-rated talent and have speed in spades. Guys like de Rossi, Mancini, Perrotta and Taddei can turn a game with precision balls, quick bursts, and in the case of the two Brazilians (Mancini and Taddei), wicked dribbles. One angle on the game tonight will be ‘the battle of the stepover kings’: Cristian Ronaldo vs. Amantino Mancini. Let’s hope the flashy Brazilian turns it on tonight to compete with the Pretty Portuguese.
Roma’s coach, the always interesting to look at Luciano Spalletti is a sharp contrast to Manu U’s Sir Alex Ferguson. In contrast to the many titles Sir Alex has earned (including knighthood), Luciano Spalletti can count only coaching his way up through the ranks of Italian lower tier football. “Coaching Empoli FC in a promotion play-off was important but somehow I think playing United in a packed Stadio Olimpico beats that,” Spalletti said with a smile. His gift for understatement is matched by his gift for strategy.
He will go up against Sir Alex carefully. And by carefully I mean promoting attacking football. He wants to win. And his team wins when they play beautiful flowing football. Do the math. Roma will try and capitalize on Manchester’s injury depleted back-end, and they will also rely on their hunger. “Sir Alex is a wonderful coach but there’s a difference between him and me: he’s won 29 trophies, I’ve won one Serie C title,” Spalletti pointed out.
I will be there offering my support. I think the story of Roma in the Champions League has an ending not yet written. I sure hope not.