Straight from the dark heart of Italy
The cappuccini are tasting a lot sweeter this morning after all four Italian clubs produced fine wins in the UEFA Cup on Thursday evening.
In fact, apart from AS Roma leaving a bitter taste in the mouth, it was a European week to savour for Serie A and certainly AC Milan, Udinese and Sampdoria look set fair for the group stages of their UEFA Cup.
Napoli’s tie with Benfica could still go either way but Edy Reja’s team demonstrated that although they can let in the odd goal they are equally capable of finding the back of the net. With nearly 60,000 in the San Paolo stadium it was almost like the glory days of Diego Maradona.
So here’s to a full Italian complement in the next phase – and to the hope that Alessandro del Piero never again tries that limp effort at a back-flip. A man of his age should know that he could do himself a mishap, although it was a cracking goal to give Juventus a somewhat fortunate victory over Zenit St Petersburg.
Tuttosport, of course, have already booked their seats in Rome’s Olympic stadium for May’s Champions League Big Night Out. Showing admirable restraint, Friday’s headline runs: “Juve for the final.” With Real Madrid to play twice and a visit to Russia, it may be a tad premature for Bianconeri fans to get too carried away.
At least La Gazzetta dello Sport had the good grace not to get involved in any hyperbole around Milan’s win over FC Zurich. Their take on events at the San Siro, where a meagre 25,000 bothered to turn up, was “Pato and Borriello make Milan smile again” – but smiling through gritted teeth: the former masters of the universe would rather be back at the top table of the Champions League than slumming it in the UEFA Cup.
Plenty of motivation, then, for Carlo Ancelotti and his men to get their domestic season up and running at the weekend. It’s joint-top against joint-bottom when Lazio come to town to protect their unbeaten start to the campaign, but a win for Milan looks on the cards unless the Romans can overcome that physiological block of bottling it up north – where they haven't beaten the Rossoneri since the 1989/90 season.
Even then it took a Paolo Maldini own-goal to hand them the points – and the way the old fella performed last Sunday at Genoa, maybe Ancelotti should take no chances and diplomatically leave the 40-year-old in the stands this time around.
No doubt the table will have more familiar feel to it come Sunday evening. Inter are at Torino and seemingly can do no wrong at the moment, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Jose Mourinho’s wry grin plastered across our screens when the champs go back to the top.
However, Juve will more than likely be there too as they travel to Cagliari, who are bottom and were dumped out of the Italian Cup in midweek 4-0 at Reggina. Coach Massimilliano Allegri should be getting his marching orders come Monday morning – and only a victory for Roma at home to the conquers of Cagliari will allow Luciano Spalletti to sleep easily.
Just as well the Giallorossi boss is bald, because he'd be tearing his hair out watching Cicinho doing everything humanly possible to neglect his duties as a right-back.
That apart, at the moment it’s all sweetness and light in the world of Italian football – which probably calls for another sugar in the morning cappuccino.
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