This week Andrew is joined by Adam Digby, Adam Bate and Paolo Bandini for a Serie A podcast special.

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Resident Italian football writer Steve Mitchell has delightfully written about his weekend watching football in lovely Calcio…enjoy!

“I will pick you up on my scooter around 10am” explained my friend in Rome, Nando.  Nando is the owner of the Ultra Bar and was to be my tour guide prior to the Roma v Milan game on Saturday night.

I have been to the Eternal City to watch football on numerous occasions but this weekend was to be a celebration of my visit to one of the world’s most beautiful locations. Nando arrived dead on 10 and a few minutes later we were zipping around the tourists outside of the Coliseum on route to meet another one of my good friends Roberto, who also runs a bar in via Tuscolana, a district outside of the tourist trap where the true inhabitants of the city live.

Roberto grew up standing on the Curva Sud at the Stadio Olimpico and within half an hour of my arrival, some of his old acquaintances joined us for beer and pizza on a beautiful sunny day. We were then invited to lunch at a restaurant nearby where one of the guys was the head chef and after demolishing around six courses of traditional Roman cooking, I hopped back on Nando’s scooter to spend the afternoon at the Ultra Bar.

As the match approached, the effects of my long lunch were easing and after Roberto and friends arrived we headed to the Olimpico for the evening’s main event. The Curva Sud was full and with Milan bringing over 10 thousand fans to the capital the atmosphere was incredible. The game will not live long in the memory, a 0-0 draw enough to give the visitors their 18th scudetto but I had to prepare myself for another festival of culinary delights at a renowned pizzeria, in the San Lorenzo district of the city.

More friends arrived and as the clock hit 12.30am, we embarked on another mammoth eating session. Franco, one of the “Vecchia Guardia” or (old guard) a name given to the Roma ultras that are now too old to cause mayhem, presented me with a sweatshirt from the group and a fabulous book containing pictures of the days when the CUCS (Commando Ultra Curva Sud) were the most feared supporter group in Italy. After we said our goodbye’s with a couple of shots of Grappa, I finally returned to my hotel around 3 in anticipation of part two of my calcio weekend.

Sunday morning saw me heading out to Latina, around 60 kilometres outside of Rome to see a promotion party after the club were crowned champions of Lega Pro C2 section C the previous week. Latina fans have a reputation in the peninsula for being predominantly right wing in their outlook, this is no surprise seeing as the city was founded by Benito Mussolini in 1932. More surprising is that it is twinned with Birkenhead here in the UK. As I arrived in the city on a blisteringly hot day, the early signs were not good as I waited an hour at the train station for a bus to take me to the stadium.

Finally a bus arrived and as I explained to the driver where I wanted to go he gave me a look as if to say “this guy is crazy, all the way from the UK to see this lot!” As we hit the city centre, he very kindly pointed out were I should leave his bus and after around a five minute walk I could see the match-day traders setting up their stalls amongst a sea of blue and black, the clubs colours. Immediately my arrival caused a stir and two supporters carrying a huge flag asked me why I was there. After I explained to them they were ecstatic and demanded I take a photograph of them for my article of which I obliged.

My Italian was being severely tested by now and my next mission was to acquire a ticket for the game. Luckily the biglietteria or ticket office was right outside the main entrance and after handing over my passport I was presented with a ticket for the Curva Nord for the grand sum of 5 euros by a young girl who was severely impressed by my visit. Unfortunately I was not as impressed by her spelling as my name on the ticket looked like something you had to unravel on the Countdown Conundrum.

With kick-off still 90 minutes away, I clocked a bar over the street from the ground and proceeded to sink a couple of beers at lightening pace to get in the mood for what was to be a huge celebration. As bombs and firecrackers were let off in the street the carnival atmosphere continued all the way to the stadium and once I took my place amongst the hardcore supporters on the Curva, I was invited to join in the party by waving a flag and bouncing up and down at regular intervals.

In unforgiving heat, the hosts were two up in quarter of an hour to keep the atmosphere at fever pitch. Latina’s main rivals are Frosinone, and next season it may just be that the two will go head to head in the third tier of Italian football as the Gialloblu (Yellow Blues) look set to be relegated from Serie B. During the second-half, a micro light hovered over the stadium and then incredibly unleashed a plume of yellow and blue smoke as it circled the arena. The home fans were livid but nothing could spoil this day.

The game ended in a 3-0 win for the champions and the Latina players did what all Italian players do after the last game of the season, throw all their kit into the crowd and bounce around in just their underpants. A fire hose was then taken by one member of the playing staff and the Curva was sprayed with water but nobody really cared as the cool water was most welcome. As I headed back to the bar for post match refreshments, I still had one thing to do and that was to swap my Oxford United pennant that I had in my bag for a souvenir of my visit. Within 10 minutes the exchange had been made and I am now a proud owner of a Latina Calcio scarf.

It was a weary Englishman who returned to the capital on Sunday evening but the memories of the weekend will remain for a long time. The contrast between the two games could not have been greater but as ever when you visit this wonderful country, the welcome and hospitality are the same wherever you go.

 

 

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This week I am joined by Gav Stone and Ethan Dean Richards as we
discuss the four Champions League games this week. Milan v Tottenham,
Valencia v Schalke, Roma v Shakhtar Donetsk and Arsenal v Barcelona.

There is also an interview with Daniel Richardson from Britski Belasli
about the ADO den Haag and the Eredivisie.

Hope you enjoy the pod, comments, suggestions and just general feedback are encouraged. For iTunes of to download go here

Episode 26 – gibfootballshow podcast by gibfootballshow

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This weekend saw an abundance of great football matches and countless talking points, most of them centred around the match at Old Trafford between Manchester United and Liverpool in the FA Cup. Earlier in the day Sampdoria took on Roma at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris and raised another talking point, one that is rarely brought up.

With Roma leading 1-0 away from home, substitute Juan sold his keeper Julio Sergio short with a horrible back pass, Sergio rushed out to win the ball Angelo Palombo skipped past him and Sergio could do nothing but bring the midfielder down. The referee had no choice but to point to the penalty spot and show Sergio a red card. Down to 10 men Claudio Ranieri then had to sacrifice Jeremy Menez to bring substitute goalkeeper Doni on the pitch.

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This article was originally publish on twofootedtackle.com but also wanted to feature it on my own site.

At the age of 21, Valentin Stocker is a name unknown to most people outside of Switzerland. The Swiss Super League is not one of the more glamorous divisions so it is no surprise that the waves Valentin is making at FC Basel haven’t reach our rubbish-strewn shores as of yet.

Two goals against Wales in the recent European Championship Qualifiers may have raised an eyebrow or two. The goals themselves were not blockbusters worthy of mention on TV round-up shows, but showed Stocker continuing to do what he has done all season: playing from the left of midfield he has acquired a knack of being in the right place at the right time.

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Only 5 games left in Serie A and things couldn’t be closer at the top, 4 points seperate the top 3, and 5 points seperating the 4 teams chasing that elusive last Champions League place and that’s what I will be concentrating on.  AS Roma’s 1-0 win away at Bari thanks to Marko Vucinic’s goal saw the Capital club take the top spot in Serie A, Inter Milan’s 2-2 draw at Fiorentina saw them slip from the top spot for the first time since Matchday 7. This gave A.C Milan the chance to pull within 1 point of Inter and 2 points off top spot, however they struggled against Catania at Home and Boriellio’s 80th minute goal saved a point for the Rossoneri.

Of the 3 teams Milan have the toughest run in, having to face Sampdoria, Palermo, Fiorentina, Genoa and Juventus all 4 teams still fighting for a place in European competition next season, and to make things worse for Leonardo’s men, only 1 of those games (Juventus) is at the San Siro, for me this rules Milan out of the title race, however they are safe for a 3rd spot, miracles can happen though, I can see them picking up 8 points from 15 and finishing on 72 points.

The race between Roma and Inter however is alot tighter, Inter a slight advantage with 3 home game to Roma’s 2, however Roma’s next game is the Rome Derby against Lazio so it will feel like a home fixture in venue, maybe not in atmosphere though. After tthat Roma have a home game against Sampdoria which will not be easy as Del Neri’s men are in the hunt for a Champions League qualifier place,  a trip to high flying Parma is next having a great season back in Serie A and finding themselves only 5 points away from Juventus in that last Europa League spot, Cagliari then travel to the Stadio Olympico and on the last day Roma travel to Verona to take on Chievo in which the Marcantonio Bentegodi stadium could be the scene for great triumph or disappointment.

Inter have a slight advantage in that apart from Juventus’s visit to the San Siro on Friday night (16th) none of Inter’s 4 remaining opponents are trying to qualify for Europe so the quality of team isn’t as high, this is balanced up with 3 of the teams, Siena, Lazio and Atalanta are all fighting for their lives at the bottom of the table and there is nothing more dangerous than a team fighting for their place in Serie A, Inter i’m sure however will feel strong enough to overpower these teams. Home games against Atalanta and Chievo should be 3 points each the destination of the title will be decided on Inter and Roma’s away performances.

My opinion is Inter will win 4 of the last 5 games and pip Roma to the title by 1 point, of course as with every league anything can happen, and with only 1 point seperating the teams, there will be a number of twists and turns I’m sure, as I’m sure will be the chase for the last Champions League place, Palermo sit in 4 th place right now, their games remaining include a visit from Milan and finishes with 3 away games at Siena, Sampdoria then Atalanta, that 2nd last games against Sampdoria will be an absolute huge fixture, with Sampdoria only in 5th place due to goal difference, it could come down to that game to decide 4th place. Before the crunch match with Palermo, Sampdoria have the small task of taking on Milan and Roma and finish with a very hard match when Napoli come to town.

Napoli themselves are 5 points off Palermo at the moment so with a good run, they could be in contention when they have to travel to Sampdoria on the last day they’re run in is slightly favourable Home games against Cagliari and Atalanta and away trips to Bari and Chievo, Napoli have the players capable of winning all 5 games, but they can be eratic and could lose them all too.

The last team trying to fight their way into the Champions League is no other than the “Old Lady” Juventus a very up and down season could be salvaged by a late run into that 4th spot, it’s not going to be easy though, the 5 games left starts and ends with trips to Milan, Inter tonight and Milan on the 16th of May in the middle they have home games against Bari and Parma and an away game against dangerous home side Catania. Juve’s away form has not been good at all, but again on their day they could beat all 5 teams, in my eyes however this will not happen, I am predicting 2 wins from 5 for Juve.

So after all 5 games have completed what are my predictions:

1. Inter Milan – 80 pts – Champions League Group
2. AS Roma – 79 pts – Champions League Group
3. A.C Milan – 72 pts - Champions League Group

4. Sampdoria – 64 pts -  - Champions League Play-offs
5. Palermo – 62 pts – Europa League Play-offs
6. Napoli – 59 pts – Europa League 3rd round qf
7. Juventus – 59 pts

Inter to pip the title from Roma, Sampdoria to take that last Champions League place, and the biggest shock would be Juventus missing out on all European competition.

Of course now that I’ve put my predictions on here, I will be completely wrong and it’ll be all change, should be an exciting climax to the season.

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