Byline: STEVE STAMMERS
BAD news first. As if facing Francesco Totti, Gabriel Batistuta and Marco Delvecchio is not enough Arsenal should beware the referee at the Stadio Olimpico tomorrow night because he will probably be hopelessly biased.
Now the good news: all the outrageous decisions will be in their favour because he will probably be in the pay of AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus, all of whom will be desperate to see their bitter rivals AS Roma suffer further humiliation in the Champions League.
Well that's if you believe the club president Franco Sensi, who is convinced all referees are out to do Roma down this season. Last week he even went on television to accuse the Italian Football Federation of being in on the conspiracy after Inter scored a late equaliser from a highly debatable corner.
His words prompted 1500 banner-waving fans to protest in front of the Italian Federation's headquarters, chanting insults demanding a more even-handed approach to Roma's matches.
Given their indifferent start to the season - Roma are ninth in the league and scored just three goals in qualifying for the second phase of the Champions League - it is no surprise that manager Fabio Capello has offered his president public support. However, when I interviewed Capello at Roma's training camp he was more conciliatory.
"It is better to be quiet right now," he said with an ill-disguised smile.
"Better for Roma, better for Italian football."
Instead, he preferred to dwell on the strengths of the Arsenal team he says are playing the best football in Europe, how he bought and sold Patrick Vieira at AC Milan, his attempt to secure Thierry Henry for Real Madrid and how he was sounded out as England manager as successor to Kevin Keegan.
"I was contacted about taking over the English national team," he revealed. "Someone asked me before they appointed (Sven-Goran) Eriksson and I said 'Yes, why not ?' "But they gave the job to Eriksson. As for English clubs, I've also had opportunities but I did not take them. I prefer not to say the names. They must stay private. Will I go one day? I don't know. It depends on which team. I have to be at a club with ambition."
The 56-year-old is impressed by the way English football has evolved since his playing days with Juventus, AC Milan and Italy.
"I played twice against England and we won The club convinced that referees out to Roma this season
gunning for them both - and I scored," he beamed.
"Before, it was all long ball but now they play much more with the ball.
It is better to watch. …