Roma cannot afford to slip up at Parma if they have any hope of catching Inter Milan

Parma v Roma, Serie A, May 1, 2010

Parma 6.17; Draw 4.03; Roma 1.47

After watching Philippe Mexes cry, to many Roma have blown it.

Having fought back from an 11-point deficit to Inter Milan earlier in the season, the Giallorossi finally took top spot in the division a couple of weeks back. Claudio Ranieri was walking on water. All was wonderful for the Romans. Inter’s stranglehold had been broken. And then it all went to pot against Sampdoria last weekend. (Inter are 1.20 to win Serie A, Roma are 4.35.)

After Francesco Totti had sent the Stadio Olimpico mental with the opener in the first half, party-poopers Sampdoria failed to allow the Romans to canter to victory after the break. Rather, Azzurri striker Giampaolo Pazzini notched a brutal double to down the Tinkerman’s charges, and suddenly all their hard work in pulling themselves back in the Scudetto race evaporated into thin air.

The shock defeat was Roma’s first since October last year, and was reflected in the unhappy face of the team’s head coach, Claudio Ranieri. “We are obviously disappointed because we played a beautiful first half, but didn’t make the most of our chances. Perhaps we could have controlled the game better after the break. But as I told my players, a draw or a defeat makes little difference. Our future is no longer in our hands and we must try to win our remaining games and hope Inter don’t. But Inter are an armada.”

Against such a miserable backdrop, one is left to wonder how much Roma have left in their locker for the trip to Parma on Saturday.

Parma’s season is practically over as stuck in mid-table they can neither be sucked into the relegation battle nor fight for a European place. At the moment they have 46 points from 35 matches and are tenth in the league standings. However, such a flat-line should be applauded as, in their first season back in Serie A, the Ducale club have had little trouble re-establishing themselves amongst the elite of Italian football.

The past two weeks have seen Parma hit a downturn as they suffered a 3-2 home defeat at the hands of Genoa, before losing 2-1 last weekend at relegation-strugglers Bologna. Last weekend’s defeat though was absorbed with key defender Alessandro Lucarelli out suspension, but the 32-year-old stalwart returns this weekend to sure up the backline.

Parma will also make last minute assessments over the fitness of defender Damiano Zenoni and striker Alberto Paloschi, while Dzemaili, Mirante, Lunardini and Paci are all doubtful.

Of those fit and able, Parma’s main goal threat will come from their three-pronged attack. Young 22-year-old French striker Jonathan Biabiany, who netted his fifth goal of the season last weekend, offers the pace and youthful zest, while the nous and experience is injected into the home attack by for Manchester City striker Valeri Bojinov and seasoned pro Hernan Crespo.

For Roma, they will arrive on Saturday night with all their stars available in a match they have to win to keep their title hopes alive. Depending on how attacking Ranieri chooses to be, he has the options of playing Mirko Vucinic, talisman Totti and Luca Toni in his forward line. His midfield will naturally be lead by ever-present trio David Pizarro, Simone Perrotta and Daniele De Rossi, while at the back John Arne Riise,  Juan and Nicolas Burdisso will line up in front of keeper Julio Sergio.

Roma certainly have the squad to win at Parma, the question-marks though surrounding their mental strength ahead of the fixture.

To the Roma faithful, the Giallorossi’s 2-1 defeat to Sampdoria was eerily reminiscent of another bitter defeat back on April 20, 1986, when, coached by a young Sven-Goran Eriksson, they lost 3-2 to the already relegated Lecce, relinquishing the lead at the top of Serie A on the penultimate day of the season. Roma ended two points off the pace that year, just like they are now, however the difference this season is that they still have a degree of reasonable belief left that they can leapfrog Inter one more.

After their epic display at the Nou Camp on Wednesday night in the Champions League, Jose Mourinho’s men face the daunting task of taking on Lazio on Sunday. And, with fatigue likely to be a factor for the Nerazzurri who played over an hour of the match with just 10-men, Roma know they have to keep the pressure on Inter and hope that their capital rivals can do them a massive, massive favour.

Alternatively, slip up at Parma and Mourinho may be able to start popping the champagne.

101gg predicts: Parma 1 – Roma 2

Parma 6.17; Draw 4.03; Roma 1.47

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