Channel Five are currently running adverts reminding people to watch Fulham play Roma tomorrow night. We’ve finally made it!
I’m quietly confident about this game. Roma had been on a good run in Serie A but suffered a real setback at the San Siro over the weekend – and their defending against a very poor AC Milan side left me wondering whether we might be able to exploit some unusual frailities in an Italian defence. We’ve already noted this week that Roma will be without three key players, but anyone taking Totti’s absence as a sign that it should be straightforward for Fulham on Thursday is seriously deluded.
There’s still plenty of talent in Claudio Ranieri’s squad. Mexes and Burdisso shouldn’t make things easy for Zamora and Kamara – if that’s the partnership that Roy decides to go with – because they are international class defenders. Mexes has drifted off the radar somewhat after his promising early years in French football but on his day is supreme. Burdisso, the Argentine, had to do plenty of covering against Milan and is a very capable defender.
They’ll be a fair few players to watch in midfield too. Fulham fans will need little introduction to Daniele De Rossi (the man sent off at the World Cup for a disgraceful elbow on our Brian McBride – will the boo boys be well-informed enough to get into him I wonder?) but the Italian has improved markedly as a player in the past couple of years and is likely to captain the visitors at the Cottage tomorrow night. Simeone Perrotta was born in Ashton-under-Lyme is a talented and versatile box-to-box midfielder who can play on either wing, as a tough-tackling central midfielder or operate in a much more advanced role. He has 48 caps for Italy and has made more than 150 league appearances for Roma since signing from Chievo in 2004.
It’s probably worth keeping an eye out for David Pizarro, the little Peruvian playmaker who is blessed with exceptional vision and an amazing range of passing, as well as Rodrigo Taddei, the lively Brazilian who Fulham should allow to dribble at our peril. Up front, despite the absence of Totti, there are plenty of options. Roma’s official website doesn’t list Mirko Vucinic among the travellers which I assume is a simple oversight – but even if he doesn’t make it Ranieri can pick from the highly-rated young protege Stefano Okaka Chuka, the Brazilian Julio Baptista (who was on loan at Arsenal) and French maestro Jeremy Menez, who scored against Milan.
Hodgson’s side still remains a closely guarded secret. I should imagine he’ll make changes – perhaps Chris Smalling will come into central defence alongside Brede Hangeland – and injuries might rob him of Dickson Etuhu and Danny Murphy. The former can easily be covered by the impressive Chris Baird, but Murphy’s probable absence after picking up a knee injury against Hull is more of a headache. It might be an opportunity for Jonathan Greening to show why Hodgson was so keen to bring him in from West Brom.