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Apr 24, 2014

Milan and on and on and on


Maybe it's because a fantastic season is winding to a close. Maybe it's because second place is already secured and the side has proven nearly everything it set out to do. Or maybe it's just because matches with the Rossoneri are almost always vibrant affairs.

- Report: Fiorentina 0-1 Roma

Either way, Friday's match at the Olimpico against Clarence Seedorf's Milan looks to be a fun one.

Now, Milan are not having a banner season (understatement of the decade). In seventh place, with 14 wins, nine draws, and 11 losses, the visitors are 31 points behind Roma. Yes, 31. That's not a typo; their 51 points pale in comparison with Roma's 82: their 11 losses are over five times the amount that the home side have. Fourteen wins puts them on par with Inter and Atalanta, but Roma have close to double that with 25. The gulf between the two sides may never have been so great and so in favor of the Giallorossi.

All of this may or may not have any meaning during the match; statistics and records can demonstrate overall greatness, but in any one-off game it could be mostly irrelevant. Both teams are in a very good run of form -- Roma looking for a ninth consecutive win, Milan a sixth -- though the last two meetings have ended in stalemates. The last time Roma defeated Milan, the home side scored four times in the opening sixty minutes, featuring a double from Erik Lamela and a rather undeserved sending-off from Marquinhos prompting two quick goals from Milan that added some excitement for the neutrals but not much in the way of a threat to the final result. Much like the Fiorentina match last week, however, this game will see neither side at full strength. The late-season rash of absences continue for Roma: Mehdi Benatia is still injured, Mattia Destro is still suspended, Kevin Strootman is recovering well but not expected to play until late fall and Federico Balzaretti seems like he's out indefinitely. For Seedorf's men, Nigel de Jong is suspended, Michael Essein seems a doubt, and their defense has been missing all season.

None of the injuries have really stopped Roma in recent weeks, of course. Rodrigo Taddei and Radja Nainggolan have covered marvelously in the midfield, Adem Ljajic's performances the past two appearances suggests he may come good after all, and even Rafael Toloi's three appearances have begotten only three wins as manager Rudi Garcia himself noted in the pre-match presser. Against Milan he'll face his biggest challenge yet in the form of Kaka and Mario Balotelli, but he’s full of confidence and playing to be signed permanently, surrounded by quality defenders and a solid midfield.

Anything less than a win here could see Juventus wrap up the Scudetto by Monday, so to keep the faintest of improbable title hopes alive, Roma need to do the impossible and keep on winning.

Luckily, they've routinely made the impossible very possible this season.