Livorno v Roma, Serie A, March 14, 2010
It’s been a horrible week for Calcio. Fiorentina were dumped out of the Champions League on Tuesday night, and on Wednesday AC Milan followed suit after taking a beating at Old Trafford. The disappointment was not just restricted to the two Italian clubs themselves, as there is now a real likelihood that Serie A will surrender their fourth Champions League place to the ever-improving Bundesliga, meaning that Italian teams will soon have to grapple over just three Champions League places via the league.
With that as the backdrop, third-place Roma travel to third-bottom Livorno on Sunday with bothÂ clubs desperate for the three points for polar opposite reasons.
Roma have blown Jekyll and Hyde all season. When they’ve been good, as was the case in November, December, January and most of February, they have been unbeatable as they picked up three draws and 17 wins in a 20-match unbeaten sequence.
But the tide has since changed dramatically, and Roma have been struggling of late and have been dropping points and losing matches too. They lost both legs in their Europa League tie against Panathinaikos, while drawing their last two league matches with Napoli and AC Milan. The Giallorossi have lost their sheen in recent weeks, and the pressure is now on coach Claudio Ranieri (13.00 to be the next Italian manager) to prove that he can kick-start his squad back into life as the final months of the season tick over. (1.50 for Ranieri to be Roma coach at the start of next season, 2.50 against.)
On the field, Roma have been suffering without the presence of talisman Francesco Totti for the last few weeks. Totti, whose influence should not be belittled, is unlikely to participate once again this weekend, but in slightly better good news the Romans could be set to welcome back Luca Toni to their starting line-up. Toni has scored twice in five league appearances for the Giallorossi since joining them from Bayern Munich on loan in January, and his availability will offer the visitors a handy option up-front. (4.48 to be Draw/Roma.)
Should Toni start, he will likely line-up alongside Mirko Vucinic in the attack, while Julio Baptista, David Pizzarro, Simone Perrotta and the excellent Daniele De Rossi help fill out the midfield. Special mention should also be made for former Liverpool left-back John Arne Riise, with the Norwegian having been in sparkling goalscoring form of late bagging some crucial goals in recent weeks.
Flipping to Livorno, manager Serse Cosmi is facing relegation squarely in the face as his team languishes in the bottom three, three points adrift of 17th-placed Lazio while in 16th-spot Udinese have a five point buffer on the Labronici. Making matters worse there appears to be little in the way of a silver lining for Livorno, with the club’s last win arriving in mid-January while they have lost their last four matches on the spin in the league.
A poor 2-1 home defeat to relegation-rivals Siena a couple of week’s back suggested that the writing was on the wall for Livorno, and if they want to have any chance of beating the drop then they need to get something out of the match with Roma this week to, at the very least, instill some confidence in the ailing squad.
Livorno are far from being good at the back but keeper Rubinho has made several brilliant saves over the course of the season. The Livorno custodian has bailed out his team numerous times and has been the club’s most consistent good performer at the back.
Further forward, 36-year-old stalwart Antonio Filippini has shown flashes of good form during the season from midfield, and the evergreen puppeteer will be relied upon again this weekend in the middle of the park.
Yet Livorno’s biggest problem all season has been sticking the ball in the back of the net. (1.72 to be under 2.5 goals, 1.99 to be over.) With just 17 goals scored all season in the league – the worst in the division – time has come for the likes of Cristiano Lucarelli (top scorer with five goals) and Lithuanian striker Tomas Danilevicius to prove their worth in the final third. Undoubtedly, if Livorno don’t start scoring soon they will definitely go down to Serie B.
With just four home wins all season, there is very little to get excited about for Livorno ahead of Roma’s visit. Accordingly, the Giallorossi will be expecting to claim the three points and close in on second-placed AC Milan.
101gg predicts: Livorno 0 – Roma 2 (6.85)