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Friday, 03 November 2006

3846: Serie A Preview: Big Test For


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by : Paul Grech

Mac removes him from sight and carries out the inevitable with ruthless efficiency.

The fate of the little people can't disturb our hero from hurtling towards his glorious destiny. Unmoved by the extermination of another minion he moves on with the day's business.

"Today is also the day that we decide our new Minister for Propaganda Dave. It's down to two. I kinda like the cut of McDowell's jib. Doesn't stand for any rubbish, doesn't think much of the press and is willing to do anything to get the truth out there." John places particular emphasis on the word truth. "But I've decided against him," he says surprisingly.

John's peerless leadership was built on such monumentally brilliant curve balls. This is one similar to the time he promised a "world class" general, but delivered something else entirely.

"Oh," offers Dave inquisitively. "Yes, this other candidate, from the Middle East," says John, before being interrupted. "I like the sound of this. They don't think much of the media in those countries. Tell me more," says the older of the two men.

"Well, he did an impressive interview. When I asked how he would respond to questions of incompetence his reply was, 'I triple guarantee you there is no incompetence in Merrion Square.' It was as convincing as it was inspired,” gushes John.

“When I asked how he would tackle questions about the possibility of Northern Ireland leapfrogging us in the rankings he said 'They're not even within 100 miles of us. They are not in any place. They hold no place in football. This is an illusion.' He is just perfect Dave," says our hero grinning like a Cheshire cat.

He hands Dave a copy of the successful candidate's job application.

"Where did this Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf work last?" enquires Dave. John is at a loss. In the excitement of finding a like-minded candidate, he neglected to enquire.

He summons a minion from the front office and poses the question. "He was the Iraqi Minister for Information until 2003 My Lord Chancellor," utters the subordinate. "And how did he perform in that role?" asks John with his brow slowly furrowing. The minion senses the possibility of his imminent demise. "Em…he was a resounding success."

“Excellent,” says John. The Empire is striking back.
If anyone is going to challenge Inter, it’s going to be Roma. That was the overall feeling at the start of the season and not without reason. They had ended last season in brilliant fashion with coach Luciano Spalletti, having lost all strikers to injury, devising an inspired system that allowed them to play without any forwards.

This season started in a similar fashion but over the past few weeks, they’ve been struggling to get results. As with any side full of young players, Spalletti is struggling to improve morale as the home draw with Olympiakos in the Champions League proved.

This weekend they’re faced with another home fixture, but their game against Fiorentina is bound to be a difficult. With the latest round of penalty reductions, Fiorentina now show a positive points total and their performances are picking up. A win in Rome, for which you can get odds of 3/1, isn’t to be ruled out.

A difficult week for Milan ends with a tricky tie against Atalanta where you can back the home side for 5/1 or else a draw at 13/5. Promoted as Serie B champions, the Bergamo side have started the season well with Christiano Doni – back after four seasons with Sampdoria and Mallorca – in fine form. So far he has scored five goals and is the player Milan will have to watch out most for.

At least Alberto Gilardino has started scoring with two well taken goals in as many games. If he can keep it up, it will ease some pressure from coach Carlo Ancelotti.

Inter have an ideal chance to consolidate their position at the top of the table with a relatively easy fixture against Ascoli. Not even they, with their instinct to self-destruct, should mess that up.

Fellow leaders Palermo were surprised to lose at home against Newcastle but on that occasion Francesco Guidolin rested key players like Fabio Simplicio and Max Bresciano. Sampdoria won’t benefit from such favours and they know that the in-form striker Amauri will be back after being cup-tied for the UEFA Cup game. Still, it won’t be easy for the Sicilian side making the odds of 13/5 for a draw look interesting.

Siena have been quietly picking up points and now lie fourth. With ‘Super’ Mario Frick quickly adapting to life in the Serie A – five goals so far this season – they’ve done anything but struggle which is what most people expected them to do. Parma boss Stefano Pioli breathed a sigh of relief following a 3-1 win against Atalanta last week and will be hoping to build on that. An away win, however, will be a big ask but a draw, at 21/10 is worth a chance.

Predictions:
Atalanta – Milan away win
Chievo – Cagliari draw
Empoli – Lazio draw
Inter – Ascoli home win
Livorno – Udinese home win
Palermo – Sampdoria draw
Reggina – Catania home win
Roma – Fiorentina draw
Siena – Parma home win
Torino – Messina away win

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