Chievo will be no pushover for Roma as they cling on to their Scudetto hopes

Chievo v Roma, Serie A, May 16, 2010

Chievo 7.92; Draw 4.64; Roma 1.29

The 2009/10 Serie A circus is approaching its final act and still Roma cling onto hopes that come Sunday evening they will be celebrating the Scudetto for the first time in nine long years.

Yet the Giallorossi faithful won’t be counting any chickens in advance. Memories of the final weekend of the 2008 season will still be fresh in the memory, when the Romans were pipped to the title by Inter in an almost identical championship race to the one which has played out this year. Roma will be fearing the another case of déjà vu as they know that they are not in control of their destiny – but still there are definite reasons for optimism.

Inter face a final match of the season at Siena who, despite being relegated already, have plenty of motivation against Mourinho’s men. Historically there has been a firm bond between Roma and Siena, and with former Roman goalie Gianluca Curci and midfielder Aleandro Rosi in their ranks, Siena will be pumped up to poop of Mourinho’s parade. And then there is also a financial incentive for Siena, with their president Mezzaroma offering a €2 million reward to his players to defeat Inter.

So Roma will sleep easy that, unlike the norm in Italy, Siena will be fighting to the death to deny Inter in a match that they really have nothing to play for. But even if Siena can pull off a monster surprise against the Nerazzurri, can Roma produce the goods at Chievo?

The Flying Donkeys almost did Roma a massive favour last weekend at the San Siro. Inter looked to be coasting to victory last weekend after Esteban Cambiasso, Diego Milito and Mario Balotelli scored after a pair of own goals to seemingly put the hosts into an unassailable 4-1 lead. But then the home nerves began to jangle as Pablo Granoche reduced the arrears, and Sergio Pellissier struck with sixteen minutes left as the Nerazzurri hung on by their fingernails for the three points.

Such is the nature of Chievo. They currently lie in lowly 13th place in the division, but they have more than enough quality to cause the best teams in Italy serious trouble. Chievo are a side who have done the double over Fiorentina this season and picked up impressive wins at Cagilari and Catania, but then they have also slumped at home to the likes of Siena. They are the Jekyll and Hyde of Serie A.

Chievo’s talisman is striker Sergio Pellissier. After scoring 13 goals last season and 22 goals the year before, Pellissier is once again his side’s leading goalscorer with 11 goals and three assists this term. Further, after scoring in his last three matches on the spin Pellissier is in good form as the year ends, and he will be looking to do some damage to the Roma backline on Sunday.

Turning to Roma, Claudio Ranieri has a few selection problems ahead of the trip to Verona. John Arne Riise, after collecting yet another booking last weekend against Cagliari, will miss the match through suspension while star midfielder David Pizzarro is touch-and-go to play after picking up a knock to his knee. Doubts also remain as to the availability of Mirko Vucinic after the Montenegrin striker was forced out of last weekend’s match with injury.

Elsewhere, as usual, all eyes will be on Roma talisman Francesco Totti to steer his side to victory. Totti, who missed more than a third of the season with injury, grabbed a brace last weekend to turn the match against Cagliari, and he’ll be certain to lead the line at Chievo with Luca Toni and Julio Baptista on standby for a starting berth if called upon.

To many, a Roman Scudetto victory would be welcomed. Neutrals can view the capital club as the opposite to cash-laden Inter, having to work off a far inferior budget while they spent no money last summer compared to Inter’s €40 million spent. Further, after sacking Luciano Spalletti after just two matches into the season, the Romans didn’t collapse. Rather Claudio Ranieri’s turnaround of the club has been miraculous and he deserves more than second spot.

But life isn’t always fair, and Roma are looking at yet another season of disappointment as they claim the runners-up spot. They will nevertheless be hoping they end the season on a high and with three points.

101gg predicts: Chievo 1 – Roma 2

Chievo 7.92; Draw 4.64; Roma 1.29