Roma versus Fiorentina has some history. As two of the cultural capitals of the western world, this is the Romans versus the Renaissance. Virgil versus Dante. Tiber versus Arno. The battle for the heart of Gabriel Batistuta. Probably some other history stuff that I'm forgetting. Basically, it's a biggie.
Much to the annoyance of all that is good in the world, Fiorentina come into this game having lost their last two. A tight fought game in Napoli ended in a 2-1 defeat, while Thursday's match against Lech Poznan was a textbook example of complacency deteriorating into mind-bending stupidity as the Polish visitors also won 2-1. I, for one, am tired of losing 2-1, so this is a fine chance to turn that around.
In terms of the table, Fiorentina's position at the top is starting to look under increasing threat. A draw between Inter and Juventus last week softened the blow of the Napoli defeat, but the gap has been cut to just a single point. And who's that sitting in second place? Why, it's Roma, of course. Victory here would open up a bit of breathing room between La Viola and the chasing pack. In 2015, we've played Roma four times and won three.
So far this season, Paulo Sousa has been balancing a big squad across two competitions. Mostly, there's been a team for the league and a team for Europe. After Rossi and Babacar played midweek, expect Nikola Kalinic to resume his role up front as the Croatian looks to extend his excellent start to the season. All of Jakub Blaszczykowski, Borja Valero, and Milan Badelj are likely to start. Marcos Alonso went off with a slight injury against Napoli and missed the midweek game. Nominally a full back, the Spaniard has been a driving factor behind the team's success so far this season. Should he return, he'll take the tally of 'Former Bolton Players Who Weren't Really Rated In England But Are Actually Quite Good' (FBPWWRRIEBAAQG) to two.
Roma, bless them, are having a thoroughly Roma season. After strengthening astutely in the summer, they were all set to build on their recent relative success and take advantage of Juve's early slip up to mount a serious title challenge. Instead, results have not been great and manager Rudi Garcia has found himself under a bit of pressure. In spite of this, they're second in the league table.
However, they've had a bit of a howler in Europe. After qualifying for the Champions League, they're currently bottom of Group E. An excellent draw against current European champions Barcelona was followed up by defeat to BATE Borisov. This week, they came back from two nil down to lead Bayer 04 Leverkusen 4-2. In the closing stages of the game, they managed to ship two goals and the game finished as a thrilling 4-4 draw. If anyone can match Fiorentina's propensity for Really Stupid Results in Europe, it's Roma.
As we begin to move into the potential team territory, it's time to discuss the elephant in the room. Mohammed Salah caused much consternation over the summer when he rejected a seemingly already-arranged loan spell at Fiorentina to join Roma instead. People were displeased by this turn of events. Very displeased indeed. After an electrifying spell in Florence during the previous season, everyone assumed Salah would be back. We all loved him. It all went a bit wrong. Either way, now he's in Rome and he's their player (despite the regular Viola suggestions that legal matters are still proceeding.) Expect him to receive a fairly heated reception, but somewhat tempered by the fact that Fiorentina have done fairly well in his absence.
Elsewhere, big summer signing Edin Dzeko could well be fit again and ready to start. The big Bosnian is perhaps the player who most signals Francisco Totti's gradual relegation to the subs bench, but he's been battling injury recently. Leandro Castan and Kostas Manolas are likely to start at center back, but Roma have once again failed to sign any decent full backs. Florenzi and De Rossi are likely to start, with Gervinho is in the running to make the XI. Dangerman Pjanic represents the biggest threat and any free kicks within shooting distance will be entirely within his remit.