Il campionato piu bello nel mondo, Escape to Victory, Pele, Sylvester Stallone and Marco Negri
For a change, let's start with some film news. I read a brief item in La Gazzetta dello Sport which said that Pele (not nearly as good as Gregor Stevens, let alone Maradona) is going to be reunited with Sly Stallone, twenty years after their first collaboration, Escape to Victory. You may remember this film as a ground-breaking venture which set the standards by which all future war films would be judged. This latest outing is to be the life-story of the overrated Brazilian, and is sure to scale the same cinematic heights. Will the memorable goal against the Germans be included? I can hardly wait to find out.
On the message boards the other day someone was enquiring about Marco Negri. In an article written last year, there was an update on Negri, Riccio, Porrini and of course Gattuso. At that point, Negri was maintaining his fitness with the Disoccupati, a squad which allows players who don't have a club to train and play in various matches. Fortunately for the 33 year old, Livorno coach Roberto Donadoni took a chance on him and the ex-Ranger has thanked him by scoring five goals in six games. Life in Serie B is obviously as easy as it was in the Premier League in Scotland. Once again we have to wonder what he could have achieved with us if he had been managed better.
If you want to check out Livorno, go to
www.livornocalcio.it It is all in Italian, as you'd expect.
Looking at the battle for Serie A, this weekend will see who are the winter champions, the team leading at the half-way point of the season. It will be Milan or Inter or both, but you can be assured that Juve and Chievo, along with Lazio, won't concede the title on that basis. So far, there have been no surprises, perhaps apart from Chievo's (I still don't like them) continued good form. All of the big teams, with the exception of Roma, are performing. Even Europe is starting to look easy again. Here are some thoughts on the top five:
Milan's victory at Bologna had the hallmark of a Championship performance. Bologna are going well and the Dall'Ara is never an easy place to win. The foundation is defence, only 10 goals conceded so far. The surprise is that the rossoneri are second top scorers, behind Inter. Ancelotti has retained his defensive principles but invested the team with a number of attacking options, all of which are paying off. Piacenza in the San Siro this weekend shouldn't be a problem for them.
Once again Cuper is mounting a title challenge for the nerazzurri. The win over Modena leaves no-one in any doubt that this is a team to be taken seriously, achieved as it was without Vieri and Di Biagio who were absent, apparently with the flu. It may have been a breach of curfew though. The loss of Crespo is a bitter pill for them though. Six to eight weeks looks likely and Inter are looking to replace him, Batistuta from Roma has been mooted, and if that doesn't come off, Maniero from Palermo. The latter isn't as daft as it sounds, Pippo notched regularly for Venezia in Serie A. Cuper likes to play 3-4-1-2 and it seems to be working. Fourteen years since the last nerazzurri scudetto, it is overdue.
Lazio continue to amaze. Their away record is startling and Roberto Mancini is making a name for himself. The January sale of the assets hasn't materialised, perhaps the lure of a Champion's League place appeals more to the club's moneymen. I hope the biancocelesti maintain their challenge as they have reacted well to the financial crisis which engulfed the club last summer. A UEFA Cup triumph would also be nice.
As for the Old Lady, the Davids to Roma rumours are doing the rounds again. They could do worse than cash in on the volatile Dutchman. I think the most important development has been the rise of Marco DiVaio, allied to the great form of Del Piero and the rebirth of Nedved. The drubbing of Reggina wasn't really a test but this week's trip to Chievo is, especially after the 2-1 home defeat by Perugia in the Coppa Italia. When Juve have slumped this season, Lippi has advised us all to ask questions in May. His team are going well at home and in Europe, who is to fault him just now, even if the points dropped in the league have been avoidable.
Finally there is Chievo. To call them a surprise team would be an insult, as their win in the Olimpico was the latest in along line of great performances in the top league. Winning lo scudetto may be too much to ask, but without the distraction of midweek games, they can concentrate on trying to qualify for the Champions' League. In saying that, the flying donkeys still aren't a team I like at all. Not sure why, just don't like them.
The Top Six, after sixteen matches:
Last weekend's results:
Empoli 1 Torino 1
Brescia 0 Lazio 0
Bologna 0 Milan 2
Como 1 Atalanta 1
Juventus 5 Reggina 0
Piacenza 1 Parma 1
Roma 0 Chievo 1
Udinese 0 Perugia 0
Inter 2 Modena 0
This weekend's fixtures:
Atalanta v Roma
Chievo v Juventus
Lazio v Udinese
Milan v Piacenza
Modena v Brescia
Parma v Empoli
Perugia v Inter
Reggina v Bologna
Torino v Como
The Coppa Italia quarter-finals, first legs, were played this week. Vicenza and Roma play tonight (Thursday). I'll have a look at the semi-final line up next week when these ties have been decided.
Coppa Italia 1/4 Finals (14/01/03 and 22/01/03)
Juventus 1 Perugia 2
Chievo 0 Milan 0
Bari 1 Lazio 2
Vicenza Roma (16/01/03)