Hey guys, over here - remember the Serie A? Focus... Yep, there you go - it is all coming back now, isn't it. Inter has a game this weekend and it isn't against Chelsea. I know it is difficult to tear yourself away from all the Champions League and Europa League drama from this week and the week to come, but we have this whole other tournament we need to compete in as well. To whit - the Genovese come to town looking to take another three points from us. A quick look at the call-up list, though, shows that this is not the same team Samp met five months ago. Plus, this time they come to our house and we dont give up points easily at home. Hopefully, this time things will end a little differently than they did at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. (fingers crossed!)
What: Inter v Sampdoria
Where: San Siro, Milan
When: Saturday, February 20, 8:45pm local time (11:45am pacific, 2:45pm eastern)
How to Watch: This one is live on FSC or you could find a stream (MyP2P, Rojadirecta, Ustream, and ATDHE.net).
Weather: Cold but dry - forecast is for a low of 33F but no precipitation
History says this is Inter's game to lose. Of the 53 times Samp has come to Milan in the Serie A, Inter has beaten them 33 times and drawn an additional 13. Additionally, Inter has outscored them 2 to 1 (105 goals for, 46 goals allowed).
Last year we won this tie by a scant 1 goal to 0 - but the goal was a thing of beauty. The play began with one those runs Maicon is famous for (and is so seldom seen these days), then the perfect cross to Adriano waiting on the far post who dinks it in. It is enough to give me pangs of regret over Adriano (but not enough to actually want him back - this is also the game where Adri got a 3-match ban for punching Gastaldello). The highlights:
The Sampdoria board briefly sprung to life at the end of last month but has fallen silent yet again. Which is really too bad as they are really having a break out season. Of course, Stephen (Samp blogger extraordinaire) is apparently living in Bari so maybe he is a bit distracted. Anyway, I highly doubt he will have a preview up. Looks like this will be all you get.
With 12 goals in 24 games, Giampaolo Pazzini is making everyone ask: "Cassano who?"
As I said, Samp have been doing pretty well this season; they are well on the track for European placement this year, heights they have not reached since the 2004/5 season. Heady days indeed. While they are unbeatable at the home (or at least unbeaten), they have been known to drop a point or 20 away from home - they have lost seven of their 12 away games so far. Still, things are looking up on that front too as they recently beat both Siena and Udinese away. So ya, they are riding pretty high right now.
Del Neri has called up 21 players:
Portieri: M. Cassano, Guardalben, Storari.
Difensori: Accardi, Cacciatore, Gastaldello, Lucchini, Rossi, Zauri, Ziegler.
Centrocampisti: Franceschini, Guberti, Mannini, Padalino, Palombo, Poli, Semioli, Tissone.
Attaccanti: Pazzini, Pozzi, Scepovic.
You will note that although there is a Cassano on the list, it is not the crazy talented forward Antonio Cassano. That is both good and bad. Good because he can pull crazy goals out of nowhere and who needs that up against them - we certainly wont miss his creativity. Bad because Samp really dont seem to miss him. Since Del Neri dropped him (or he was injured - whatever), Samp have yet to lose a game.
Earlier in the week there was some question as to whether Pozzi would recover from his muscle strain in time for the game. He made the call-up list so everything must be ok. Castellazzi, Samps usual starting keeper, is out for the rest of the month and then some. Storari (recently of Milan) has been doing ok (they won and all) but not fabulously. He has conceded 4 goals in 5 starts.
La Gazzetta thinks Del Neri will go with the good ol' 4-4-2:
Zauri Gastaldello Lucchini Ziegler
Semioli Palombo Poli Guberti
Oh, and Ziegler, Rossi, and Pozzi are all a booking away from a missed game. Defenders hate that.
This picture makes me very happy - Chivu is certainly on the mend.
Mourinho has called up 19 players
Portieri: Toldo, Julio Cesar, Orlandoni;
Difensori: Cordoba, Zanetti, Lucio, Maicon, Samuel;
Centrocampisti: Stankovic, Quaresma, Thiago Motta, Sneijder, Muntari, Krhin, Mariga, Cambiasso;
Attaccanti: Eto'o, Milito, Pandev.
Balotelli and Santon are both injured and they trained separately. I dont think Mario's injury is particularly grave, but I guess it is enough to keep him out today. Santon's is a little more worrying - his knee is acting up again. Hopefully a few days rest will clear it up 'cause we have this whole mid-week thing looming. Chivu is easing back into training (as the photo shows) but is nowhere near ready to play football. Maybe towards the end of March, things will look differently. Materazzi rounds out the injury list - he has a thigh strain.
On the up side, after a month out, Stankovic is finally at full fitness and ready to take the field. Perhaps this little injury-induced rest was just what he needed to recapture his stellar early season form. He was looking a bit droopy before his layoff. I suspect he will get some play time tomorrow as a bit of a warm up before the game that shall not be named (I dont want to distract you all).
Mou's a little teapot, short and stout. Here is handle, there is his spout.
As for lineups, Mou was pretty emphatic that Samp was every bit as important as that other game and as such, there will be no rotation. He said:
"... For me the only game I am thinking about is Sampdoria. It's a team that is doing well, who has won their last four games, and that psychologically is feeling very well. But even if it were not Sampdoria and was instead a team that was not doing so well, perhaps in a difficult position in the standings, it would change absolutely nothing. It's a league game, we need points, it is the most important game we have right now because it's the next one. And I am not changing anything, I do not turnover, I will not leave players at home to rest, I do not think about Chelsea. I am only thinking about this match, that I respect. And I respect the opponent, for this reason I will play the team that I feel is the best: to win."
Given that, I guess the lineup should go a little something like this:
Maicon Lucio Samuel Zanetti
Stankovic(Mariga?) Cambiasso Muntari (T.Motta)
Milito Eto'o (Pandev)
And that is not too shabby.
Mou found time in his press conference to praise Roma and poke back at Bettega and De Laurentiis. About Roma, he said:
"Roma is doing well in the league, they have collected many positive results, and they are an opponent who I truly respect. I always said that. Even when Rome was in difficulty, I said that Rome had Scudetto quality. I said it last year and I have said it again this year. I may have been one of the few who has never lost respect and admiration for the great players they have. Moreover, Rome is also a clever company: when the market first opens they know to cry and after to say no. They cry because they need a player but have no money for that player, then after when someone wants to buy one of theirs they know to say no. It's a very smart company. I respect them for their quality and their results."
Ok, that last bit there might have been a subtle dig. Mourinho uses the word "furbo" which can have some negative connotations (think sly instead of clever), but I think he genuinely likes Roma. About De Laurentiis, who said that he would never hire Mourinho, Special laughingly pointed out that De Laurentiis couldn't afford him anyway ("Non ha soldi per me..."). Funny, and true.
With Bettega he left the barb until the very end. Basically, he was asked to comment on Bettega's comment that Mou should not concern himself with errors concerning other teams. Fair enough. Mou pointed out though:
"Alright, then why are we now talking of Bayern Monaco-Fiorentina? Because we can only look into our own house? Everyone is talking about Bayern-Fiorentina in Italy and I think the people who work at Fiorentina deserve that these things are spoken about. So at this time why are we all not saying "we look only at our own house" and make only Prandelli speak about this? But it isn't only Prandelli who speaks, we all speak, all of you journalists, the Federation, the Lega Calcio, all of us. For this reason when one speaks of Italian football, about what's going on in Italian football, we all must behave like the ostrich hiding its head in the sand? Either there is consistency or there is no consistency. If today Mr. Bettaga said that we must all shut up because one cannot speak about Bayern-Fiorentina, because only Rumenigge, Van Gaal, Prandelli and Delle Valle should speak of that game, then we will be consistent and we will all stay silent.... But with an area with 25 meters there is only one in Italy. (Però di area con 25 metri ce n'è solo una in Italia...) ".
Take that Mr. Bettega! Dont you tell Mou what he can or cant talk about - he is no ostrich (which is lo struzzo in Italian and a new word for me - Mou keeps me on my toes!). As an aside, I read this press conference before I went to Football Italia and was quite amused to see their coverage of the presser. First of all, these are three out 15 or so questions that ranged the full spectrum of the normal type of questions from these sorts of things. How does Football Italia spin this? "Mou slams Juve, Roma, and media."
Huh? They also translated that last line about Juve (the original Italian is above) as: “The reality is that in Italy there is only one club whose penalty box is 25 metres long...” Now I am not a professional translator, but that feels to me like they are putting words into the great man's mouth. They also almost entirely ignore the whole paragraph Mou spent praising Roma and focused on the bit there at the end. They translate furbo as crafty. Ok - that is not so terrible, but it is also not a slam by any sense of the word. So what do we learn from this little exercise? Dont believe everything you read.
(For the interested, the complete presser is here and here. Oh, and I fully realize the irony of using Football Italia for Bettega's quote when I am slamming them for misquoting Mou. I just dont have the energy to look for the original source right now.)
Is this the face of a slammer? I think not.
But I digress...
So, ya, the game. Mou had a few words about that as well: basically that drawing was better than losing but sometimes you really need to win (like tomorrow, hint hint); and that the best way to manage a campaign is to never lose. Duly noted. I think he just might want the boys to win tomorrow. And he is not alone. As it happens, I also want the boys to win tomorrow (imagine that). Milan still have that game in hand (lets just call it three points for now), and Roma are totally unpredictable (for me). They seem to lose when I think they should win and vice versa. I dont like unpredictable so they remain a very valid threat.
After our last two draws, we really need this win to get our heads together before that other thing that happens on Wednesday. We will need every ounce of swagger we can muster (which isn't much even on a good day) and as confidence comes from results, we really really need this. The candle thing with the Calcio Gods didn't seem to work last time (or maybe they just prefer cinnamon) so I think I will just stick to desperate pleading. Oh, and attempting to think happy thoughts... Maybe I should make a vision board...
For those who cant be there, a little taste of the Curva Nord: