No Place Like Rome: Are Claudio Ranieri's Roma on Course for a Historic Treble?
Had you suggested that Roma would be well positioned in three competitions when they beat Fulham to claim Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship (UWCC) three months ago, you would have been laughed at.
But Claudio Ranieri's men have been on a relentless run that has seen them climb 12 places to second in the league, as well as progressing in both the Coppa Italia and Europa League.
Suddenly, a potential treble doesn't seem so far-fetched.
Roma's latest fixture was against high-flying Palermo, which, on paper, looked tough for the Giallorossi.
In reality, it proved to be anything but as they swept their opponents aside, extending their unbeaten run to an astonishing 20 matches.
After somehow escaping with a 1-0 win over Fiorentina last weekend, Roma looked determined to redeem themselves for such a poor display with a bright start.
They did just that. After eight minutes they had the first chance of the match as Francesco Totti slid Roger Taddei in, but the winger's shot was too weak to cause any problems for Salvatore Sirigu in the Palermo goal.
Just two minutes after missing a chance to go 1-0 up, Roma found themselves lucky not to be behind when Fabrizio Miccoli squandered a great chance.
A slick piece of buld-up play down the right side led to a low ball into the box, which eventually found Miccoli. The Palermo striker was unmarked but couldn't keep his shot down, instead blazing it over the crossbar.
Roma began to control the match, but they couldn't find the killer ball early on. Despite their dominance, it was again Palermo who threatened next.
A first time strike by Giulio Migliaccio from 30 yards found a way through the crowd, forcing Julio Sergio to make a smart save and tip the ball past his post.
Miccoli then tried his luck from similar range, only narrowly missing the target with Julio Sergio struggling to reach it.
While Roma had enjoyed the lion's share of possession, Palermo should have been in front, as it was they who had created the best chances of the match.
But they failed to convert any of them, and Roma punished this lack of accuracy just after the half-hour mark.
A corner from Totti didn't look to be the best ball in as it was low and behind Matteo Brighi, but the unmarked Italian midfielder managed to turn the ball goalwards with a clever volley, which deflected in via the head of former Roma defender Cesare Bovo.
As the half began to wind down, it was Palermo who again found themselves with a good chance. A long ball over the top eluded the Roma back line, allowing Edinson Cavani in at the back post.
The Uruguayan's first time volley from a tight angle was a good one, but Sergio was equal to it. Cavani had another chance moments later, but was again thwarted by the Roma shot-stopper.
Not for the first time, Ranieri decided that changes should be made, and withdrew captain Francesco Totti for Julio Baptista at halftime. The decision looked a strange one, but it paid off less than 10 minutes in to the half.
A cross from Marco Motta found Taddei, whose header back across the face of goal caused mayhem in the Palermo penalty area.
Bovo failed to clear his lines and eventually the ball fell to Brighi who, after an attempted back heel, squared it to Baptista for a simple tap-in.
The 2-0 score soon became 3-0 as Roma began to control the match.
Another cross from Motta caused all sorts of problems and another poor clearance, which, again, eventually fell to Brighi on the edge of the box. This time, however, the Roma man controlled it before firing a half-volley past Sirigu.
At 3-0, the match looked over, but, had Simon Kjaer converted a relatively easy chance immediately after Roma's third, it could have been different.
A ball into the box was brilliantly kept in and cut back by substitute Javier Pastore, but Kjaer somehow headed over from a few yards out.
Palermo had had no shortage of chances, but they just couldn't find the back of the net. However, in the 80th minute they were gifted their best opportunity after Pastore was upended on the edge of the box.
It was a borderline decision, but the referee opted for a penalty rather than a free-kick, and Miccoli duly dispatched it to make it 3-1.
Any hopes of a dramatic late comeback were extinguished within minutes, however, as John Arne Riise restored Roma's three-goal lead.
David Pizarro played a perfect ball across the face of Palermo's goal which found its way to Riise waiting at the back post.
The former Liverpool man fired it into the roof of the net to give Roma a comfortable lead that they saw out until the final whistle.
The win is Roma's ninth in a row in all competitions, a UWCC record.
It was also the highest scoring game of the season so far, and the three-goal margin equalled the biggest win of this season.
In what is becoming a pretty safe bet at the moment, 90 percent of people who voted on the poll predicted that Roma would win, so well done to the vast majority again!
Barney's prediction: Roma win (1-0) Actual result: Roma win (4-1)
Correct prediction streak: Five matches in a row!
Roma 2-1 Fulham (Roma become new champions)
Roma 4-1 Palermo
(Click here to see the complete history of Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship)
Roma's next title defence comes on Thursday, as they face a tricky away tie to Panathinaikos in the Europa League.
Form Book (last five matches): Panathinaikos—DDWWL; Roma—WWWWW
Barney's prediction: Panathinaikos 1-1 Roma
What are your predictions for this upcoming fixture? Can Panathinaikos take advantage of a hostile home crowd and end Roma's unbeaten streak, or will Ranieri's men cope with the challenge?
Voice your opinions in the comments section!
Video highlights of Roma 4-1 Palermo can be seen here.
Where would it be now?
This week, "Where would it be now?" continues to track the alternative route of the UWCC title from the start of the season!
Last time we saw that Sunderland beating Chelsea would have resulted in very little change whatsoever, as Roma would still have the title! This week, we shall look at where the title would be if Fulham had beaten Chelsea on Aug. 23, 2009.
Fulham would have lost the title to Amkar Perm on Aug. 27, 2009.
Amkar Perm would have lost the title to Spartak Nalchik on Aug. 31, 2009.
Spartak Nalchik would have lost the title to Lokomotiv Moscow on Sept. 12, 2009.
Lokomotiv Moscow would have lost the title to Terek Grozny on Sept. 27, 2009.
Terek Grozny would have lost the title to Rostov on Oct. 18, 2009.
Rostov would have lost the title to Rubin Kazan on Oct. 25, 2009.
Rubin Kazan would have lost the title to Inter Milan on Dec. 12, 2009.
Inter Milan would still have the title!
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