Spalletti penitent, Jose incandescent, Milan incessant

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Weekend Serie A reports

Results: Atalanta Bergamo 0-1 AC Milan; Cagliari 2-0 Chievo Verona; Inter Milan 0-0 Genoa; Juventus 1-0 Torino; Lazio 0-1 Napoli; Palermo 1-3 Fiorentina; Reggina 2-0 Lecce; Sampdoria 2-0 Bologna; Siena 1-1 Catania; Udinese 3-1 Roma  

Another weekend and once again AS Roma’s season lies in ruins. Now the players are faced with the dreaded ritiro (retreat) so loved by clubs when things are heading south.

Much in the same way as a religious retreat is meant to focus the mind on the vices committed in the everyday world, so the football equivalent is a form of penance for sins perpetrated on the football pitch.

Cloistered away from the outside world on a diet of bread and water, the Romans will not get out until Wednesday evening when they face Sampdoria.

Simone Loria, who we have mentioned before as a park player masquerading as a professional footballer, will no doubt spend the next few days atoning for his flagitious behaviour against defending.

"Oi! Get back to being penitent!" 

Coach Luciano Spalletti has obviously been speaking in tongues of late. He admitted, in a rare lucid moment, that he had failed to do his job properly at the weekend, having forgotten to tell his players that his old side Udinese love to play the ball over the top for their speedy forwards. Lo and behold, unarmed with such vital information, Roma conceded two of their three goals in such a manner.

It was Helenio Herrera who can take credit for inventing the ritiro back in the late-'50s, in part to stop his Inter stars from frequenting the Milanese bars and nightclubs and generally whooping it up when they should have been tucked up at home.

Anyone who fell foul of the coach, such as Argentine playboy and man-about-town Antonio Angelillo, who once netted 33 goals in a Serie A season, were soon shipped to the sidelines.

After the weekend’s goalless draw against 10-man Genoa, Jose Mourinho is threatening similar punishment for his own ne’er-do-wells. Newly shorn of his grey locks and possessing the look of the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket, the Portuguese warned: “Those who don’t know me are about to find out.” Front and centre then, Privates Adriano, Quaresma and Balotelli, you 'orrible little men.

Mourinho: close crop

No such fears of an ear-bashing and having to clean out the loos with a toothbrush around the Milan camp, with the Rossoneri finally demonstrating that they can win ugly. A couple of the players had joked that George Clooney and Brad Pitt would be hanging around Milanello once David arrives, but at Atalanta it was more Dirty Dozen than Ocean’s Eleven.

Carlo Ancelotti had watched with growing frustration as his team failed to create one clear-cut chance for nearly 80 minutes and just when he was about to throw Filippo Inzaghi into the fray, up popped Ricky Kaka for the winner. Pippo, for once, was more than happy to join in the celebrations before donning his tracksuit again, having had the desired affect.

In recent years these were just the sort of matches Milan would have allowed to slip away, but if they can continue to take points from the minnows then they could well be a good bet for the title. And if Alberto Gilardino can keep getting away with scoring with his hand then Fiorentina can’t be ruled out either.

However, Napoli and Udinese deserve all our wholesome praise for their refreshing attitude. Maybe this is the future of Italian football: teams packed with young, hungry players, who play at pace and take the game to their opponents.

It’s such an approach that has taken them to the top of the table – and you can bet that their players will be spending the next few days in the comfort of their own homes and not closeted in seclusion contemplating their shortcomings.

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