Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Franchi, my dear...

The time fast approaches when I make my annual voyage to old Firenze to watch the boys in purple give me heart failure. After twice taking in the Fiorentina-Milan game (one win, one defeat) it is time to face up to Lazio. It is the battle of two of the teams penalised at the start of the season, although the Laziali got off a lot more lightly than us.

Much of the day will be spent in nervous anticipation. A meal nearby and then into the ground far too early. Three points would be a great tonic, my overall record at the Franchi is not too bad, especially given I generally pick one of the tougher opponents. I've seen more wins than losses which is a pretty decent return for a club that has given its fans as much heartache as the Viola.

Still, I fear Lazio's form is better than ours and if they can sneak in front that wee Rocchi man can hurt us on the break. On the other hand, in front of the Fiesole many a better team than Delio Rossi's side has been defeated. Here's hoping - I'll say 3-1 with goals from Toni, Montolivo and lucky mascot Jorgensen.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A change of look

I thought it was time for a bit of a change as I never really liked the old look. Inspired by the confirmation that Cannavaro had been crowned Balon d'or - take that Frenchies - I finally found the energy to shift things around. I'd still like to customise it a bit more (especially the banner) but I'm not sure if my blogging skills are quite up to it. Anyone who has any advice it will be gratefully received.

Anyway, it is time to go and watch the second half of Brescia v Milan in the Coppa Italia. Yes, I am that sad...

Monday, November 27, 2006

Bad night at the Barbera

The scene was set, the beers were in, the television primed and ready to go. The build-up impressive, the supporters choreography cracking and the general buzz outstanding. Then play got under way in the Palermo v Inter match.

It is hard to explain why I was so disappointed in this would-be clash of the titans. It was clear from the outset, with a cagey 3-5-1-1 formation that the Rosanero were scared. For most of the first half either Inter were very good or Palermo stood back and watched them, depending on your viewpoint. Still, it took a howler from Inter old boy Alberto Fontana to give the Nerazzurri the lead. Then, amazingly, the well-kept-quiet Amauri scored a scorcher with the outside of the boot to level matters.

That should have sparked a cracking second half but instead Inter took control again with Guidolin's men still surprisingly submissive. It was no surprise when Patrick Vieira thumped home the winner. The only shock was that a late header against the post could have salvaged an ill-deserved draw for the home team.

It looked to me like a medium-sized team struggling to cope with being in a league winning position. It was almost as if they would have been happier being a bit further down the table. All hope of Inter not winning the Scudetto is now officially in Roma's hands who scored goal of the week through Francesco Totti at the weekend.

Friday, November 24, 2006

At last, some good news for Milan

In a season of shaky form and dodgy results at last the Rossoneri have received some good news. Ropey Brazilian goalkeeper Dida is out for three months injured. Without being too harsh on old Duda, apart from one great season he has always looked prone to error. In comes big Kalac for the time being with Marco Amelia lined up for a January swoop along with a decent striker, surely.

This is a big weekend for Serie A with Palermo and Inter going head to head on Sunday night. I'd like to see the Rosanero win it, mostly just to keep the league open. However, a 1-0 Inter sneak job would not surprise me. Hope it's a good game. Main beneficiaries could be Roma who have an easy looking trip to Sampdoria although it is a ground where they have not historically done well. My old Viola have yet another Tuscan derby, this time away to Siena - a week before I watch them in person taking on Lazio.

Finally, I made some money backing Fenerbahce to beat Palermo last night. If there is one thing you can guarantee it is that an Italian team won't let you down to lose in Europe when a big league game is round the corner. Especially when they field their boys team.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Not only in Italy...

Bremen, Germany - The Champions League reaches its closing stages with Chelsea needing just a draw to get through. Or, indeed, a defeat would actually still see them qualify - as long as it is by a single goal. And those three points for the Germans would allow them to take on Barcelona needing just a draw to get through themselves. The final result? Miracolo, 1-0 to Werder...

Jose Mourinho, the world's greatest wind-up merchant, said before the game that he only played to lose against his children. In that case, it was a masterstroke by Bremen to find 11 of his infants out there.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Grande Capitano!

It might seem all I do is moan and groan here about the lack of recognition for Italian football. So, it is only fair to spend a few words in tribute to Fabio Cannavaro winning the Pallone d'Oro.

I don't think anybody who watched the World Cup could deny he was our most influential player (close-run thing with Buffon). His timing was amazing, his leap for such a small guy and his sheer guts and determination so typical of the team. I think his defining moment was when he won the ball and drove forward for the second goal against Germany in the semi-final.

Here's hoping he can get out of Madrid soon, come home to Napoli and Serie A and end his career in style. Grazie Capitano!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Inter - the new Juve?

With the Bianconeri safely shunted down to Serie B somebody had to take on the role of pantomime villain in the top division. After watching their late show against a battling Parma side, could it actually be Inter?

How ironic it would be after all their bickering and moaning and dossier compiling over the years if the Nerazzurri were to turn into their arch-enemies. The first thing they have done is sign up a couple of Juve's more objectionable players - Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Patrick Vieira. Ibra's goal celebrations are the kind of thing that would make even a mild-mannered father of two (never mind me!) leap up and try to slap his face through the television. While Vieira's mastery of the elbow, shunt, kick and trip are second to none.

Now, however, Inter also seem to have added the 'Culo' factor so long thought to be the reserve of the residents of Turin. Up pops Julio Cruz after a good save by De Lucia to give them three points they scarcely deserved. And Maicon's celebrations, goading the Parma fans, were something we could all have lived without.

Maybe you always need a baddy. Maybe a team that wins a lot just becomes dislikeable. Inter should win the league this season by a mile but I am becoming more and more convinced that I would really rather they didn't. It used to be "Tutta l'Italia contro la Juve" but I suspect most of Italy - especially juventini - would like to see Inter contrive to lose out somehow this year.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A strange night

All credit to Roma for overwhelming the Viola in the second half on Sunday night but it was a strange night from a purple perspective. We started off so well that even the absence of Toni was hardly noticed. But in the second half we were a different team.

A lot of the honour has to go to the Giallorossi who came out transformed but just the same I was disappointed with my boys. Reginaldo looked a bit out of his depth and we were a bit unfortunate with deflections that ended up at Taddei's feet but it was still a worrying display. Still, I guess Atalanta this weekend is more what I should be worried about and the pursuit of points to get us off this darned zero...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Kaka - simply the best?

Following his virtuoso performance against Anderlecht on Wednesday night the question has to be asked. Is Milan's Kaka the best player in the world at the moment?

OK, his World Cup displays were poor but the whole Brazil team was unimpressive there and many players played out of position. With the Rossoneri, he has been breathtaking for a while and last night was outstanding. He is one of the very few people in the game who really makes you sit up and take notice - and he does it very regularly. The way he spins round a marker in particular is truly outstanding.

I can't think of anyone playing better at the moment. Is there anybody else out there who can?