Monday, September 28, 2009

The Sick Men of Europe

If ever you needed a feeling of impending doom, then our European candidates provided it at the weekend. Of all seven Italian sides involved in the Champions and Europa Leagues, just one of them recorded a victory. And that was courtesy of a Stevan Jovetic penalty.

You could argue, I guess, that what is Europe’s loss is Serie A’s gain. The top of the table has an interesting look with Samp sitting pretty, Fiorentina and Udinese in the hunt and Inter and Juve already losing precious points. But while the domestic battle is entertaining, the omens for continental conflict are decidedly grim.

Certainly, there was no shame in Jose Mourinho’s men losing by a single strike to Samp (Vai Pazzo!). They tried their hardest to get back on level terms but could not muster a goal. However, having quietly accepted a draw in their opening clash with Barcelona, surely nothing more than a win will do this week. Rubin Kazan might sound more like the magic words of a sorcerer than a football team but they would love to make Inter’s Champions League dreams disappear.

Our other two “big guns”, Juve and Milan, were both held at home by the BB gunners – Bologna and Bari. I tend to think Juve’s result was the more disappointing, only because the Bianconeri have shown more promise this term. It was very unlike them to throw away a lead and an away trip to Bayern is never a simple prospect. The least said about the Rossoneri, the better. I like little Bari’s attitude – with pace and flair on the break – but they should have been no match for Leonardo’s men. Even Zurich must think a trip to the San Siro is not as daunting as it once was.

The only weekend winners were Fiorentina – courtesy of the talismanic Jojo. They were far from impressive against Livorno while their Tuesday night opponents, Liverpool, were dishing out a summary thrashing. Mind you, as my father pointed out, it was only against Hull.

In the Europa League corner, Roma left it late to salvage a draw with Catania. Lazio could do no better than a share of the spoils at home to Palermo and Genoa slumped to defeat against in-form Udinese. Our capital teams both face sides from Sofia this week and must get back to winning ways. The Grifone, I suspect, would be happy with a draw away to Valencia.

It does not look good, I admit. But hope still springs from somewhere in my soul. Every so often Italian football produces the goods in adversity. I hope this turns out to be one of those weeks.

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