On Monday, it was announced that AS Roma vs. Napoli would be moved to Friday, October 18 due to planned protests in Italy's capital. On first glance, no biggie -- after all, the match follows the international break, so it's not as though players won't be rested, right?
Take another look. Roma have a handful of Brazilians on their squad, but none were called up for the upcoming friendlies. And of course they've got Italians, but just three were called. Daniele De Rossi has already begged off with injury. Federico Balzaretti can't play against Napoli anyway, thanks to a second yellow earned against Inter Milan. So that leaves Alessandro Florenzi, hoping to earn his fourth cap. In a match that doesn't matter, as Italy have already qualified for the World Cup.
Speaking of matches that don't matter, Kevin Strootman was also called up, for the Netherlands. And just so we're clear, so was Dries Mertens, while Lorenzo Insigne will be hoping for an appearance or two for the azzurri.
Gervinho's been called up for Ivory Coast. They play just once, on October 12, the first of a two-legged tie with Senegal. Then Roma have two players duking it out to see who makes it to Brazil from Group G: Vasilis Torosidis from Greece and Miralem Pjanić from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The short version? Seven call ups for Roma, one already turned down, one for a player that can't play against Napoli, one for a match six days before the league game, and two called for two matches of some significance, one of whom will be expected to play both.
Then we have Napoli, who've had ten call ups. Marek Hamšík won't be joining Slovakia, who are already out of qualification. Pepe Reina getting called for Spain matters little; nor does Goran Pandev's Macedonia call. The most significant UEFA calls go to Gökhan İnler, Blerim Džemaili, and Valon Behrami -- all who play regularly for Switzerland and, of course, the backbone of Napoli's defensive midfield. And with Switzerland still having all to play for, you can bet the trio won't just be lounging in the Alps.
What really got people's hackles raised regarding the date change, however, was its effects on Napoli's South American contingent. Injury for Gonzalo Higuaín means he won't join Argentina, who've already qualified anyway, although Federico Fernández will join up. Camilo Zúñiga, too, misses out with injury but Pablo Armero head to Colombia, who are close to clinching a place.
Is this ideal for Napoli? Absolutely not. Matches on the evening of October 15 give the players little time to return home, and it's worse for Armero and Fernández, who will have just Thursday to train with the club. The real concern is just how exhausted the Swiss will be. If both Switzerland and Iceland win on Friday, it's down to the final match, and the Swiss will have to go all out against Slovenia on Tuesday evening.
Oh yes, and Josip Radošević is away playing for the Croatian U-21 side. Who's left?
It could be worse. The break gives Higuaín a chance to recover. It lets Raúl Albiol and Miguel Britos rest, so (cross fingers) there will be no need for Fernández. Same with Zúñiga and Armero.
But honestly, it could've been better as well. Roma are already perfect. In the minds of many, they're already being crowned the scudetto winners. They've got no European competition to worry about, and no tired legs to preserve. So why do they get the advantage here?