The most anticipated match-up of the weekend is the AS Roma-AC Milan contest to decide which club can challenge Inter for the top spot in Serie A. While the loser still has an outside shot at the scudetto, an Inter victory over Genoa would make it a tough task.
Rather than a traditional post rehashing strengths and weaknesses, here are the quick seven keys to the match:
- Who will step up for Pato: The loss of the young Brazilian is huge for this match. Not only was he leading the club in goals, but he has been a key to the resurgence of Ronaldinho. Milan has Borriello, Huntelaar, and other big names, but when that go-ahead goal is needed will they be able to be the unstoppable threat Milan may need?
- The Milan Brazilians: Ronaldinho has been dominating the pitch as of late; even in the loss to Manchester United it could be argued that he was the best player on the pitch that day (although Wayne Rooney might argue against that). Thiago Silva needs to have a good match to prevent scoring chances for Roma. A major weakness this year has been the inconsistent play of Milan’s defenders.
- Roma’s Injury Situation: Luca Toni will make his anticipated return for this match. David Pizarro is available to play. However, Francesco Totti will not be available. Can Vucinic provide the scoring threat that Roma may need if Toni is still rusty?
- Roma’s sudden defensive slip: In the Europa League last Thursday Roma gave up three goals in six minutes to Panathinaikos, leading to their elimination from the competition. Last weekend they gave up a two goal lead and had to settle for a draw against Napoli. Were these consecutive defensive mishaps anomalies or the sign of a bigger problem?
- Leonardo’s game plan: He’s 0-2 versus Inter Milan. He’s a rookie manager that has come under criticism from management. The easiest way to ease criticism is to figure out a way to gain three critical points. Failure to do so will only ratchet up that criticism.
- The crowd: Stadio Olimpico is already sold out in anticipation of this match. Roma has not lost a Serie A match at home this season and is 11-0-2 overall. AC Milan’s away record in Serie A is an impressive 7-4-2, and how they handle the partisan crowd could carry-over to their mid-week match at Manchester United.
- Milan facing double elimination: One advantage for Roma is with their Europa League elimination, this match is for their season. No points means no chance at a title. The equation is different for Milan, however. Will they be looking ahead to their match mid-week against Manchester United? A loss in this match and the Champions League means no titles for this high-profile club. Which title means more? Will Milan be going all out, or could they want to save a bit for their United match?