The moment the referee’s whistle in Palermo brought an end to proceedings last Sunday, confirming Lazio as victors at the Renzo Barbera, all Biancocelesti attention turned to this upcoming Sunday, derby day. Yes, all eyes were immediately focused on Roma and how Lazio could continue there impressive start to the season at the enjoyable expense of the Giallorossi.
Going into this fixture, it would be difficult to place your bets against Aquile. They have undoubtedly started this season in tremendous fashion, flying 4 points clear at the top of Serie A. Following a difficult campaign last time out, many expected Lazio to struggle again and after an opening day defeat at Sampdoria, many were predicting another season of disarray for the Biancocelesti. Following that defeat, Lazio have put together an impressive sequence of results and also some fantastic, both individual and team, performances.
For that, credit must go to coach, Edy Reja. He has built a Lazio team that has taken Serie A by storm and perhaps it may seem crazy, but people are now beginning to talk about Lazio as potential Scudetto winners. Reja however, continues to ensure everybody associated with the football club keeps their feet on the ground. He prefers to remember the hard work and belief that see Lazio as our table toppers as we have now entered the month of November.
The Rome derby does however present a different challenge for Reja and his men. In the majority of his teams fixtures this season, Reja has sent his team out to play, without pressure, everybody has been expecting them to crumble. As of yet, it has not happened, but this Sunday, Reja and his men will feel pressure. It is a pressure that comes when two rivals collide, form and everything else goes out of the window.
It is unlikely Roma will concern themselves with how Lazio have performed thus far, they will perhaps even gain extra motivation following Aquile’s impressive start. The Giallorossi have an opportunity to perhaps spoil the Lazio party somewhat, which they will certainly relish.
Claudio Ranieri does take his team into this clash feeling the pressure, it must be said. Following Roma’s impressive finish to last season, many expected Ranieri’s team to kick on this season and really challenge Inter and the other contenders for the Scudetto. A poor start at home and in Europe however has increased pressure on the former Juventus tactician. Victory at Lecce last weekend and a comfortable win in Switzerland against Basle in the Champions League on Wednesday evening have perhaps lessened the scrutiny somewhat, it should be stated. But as Sundays game draws ever closer, all eyes will again be focused on Ranieri and his men.
Edy Reja will certainly appreciate the week’s rest he and his team have had going into this all important fixture. Whereas Ranieri and his Roma have had a tough match away in the Champions League to contend with, Reja has been blessed with a full weeks preparation for the fixture.
Perhaps Roma having a midweek fixture could be to their advantage, there is obviously an argument for that. Sure, in terms of physical fitness going into the game, Lazio will have the edge, all things considered. But, motivation should far outweigh any fatigue issues going into a Rome derby, surely. Also, Roma have had a distraction from Lazio, an important Champions League fixture. Heading in to the Basle match, the Giallorossi knew only a victory would realistically keep there European ambitions alive. So, it was a match requiring their full, 100% concentration. It should also be considered that winning the match will have been a welcome boost to Ranieri and his men’s morale.
So, whilst Roma have had alternatives to occupy their thoughts, the players of Lazio have had a full week thinking about the upcoming fixture. It has been a week in which the pressure will have built up around them, how they handle such pressure will be key you feel, to their derby day chances.
Lazio received a welcome boost when hearing of Francesco Totti’s petulant dismissal in Roma’s win at Lecce, the red card ruling him out of his favourite fixture. The Giallorossi captain is always a major part of any Roma game plan and his presence, if nothing else, will certainly be missed. Clashes between rivals are often tight, cagey affairs and the brilliance of a special player is often what unpicks the opponents lock and provides victory for his team. Totti is a special player and the onus is now on somebody else to provide that spark for the Giallorossi. Biancocelesti doubts over Fernando Muslera are worrying, he was simply outstanding in the victory at Palermo and his central to Reja’s plans for victory, him playing is vitally important to Lazio. Aquile’s star player so far this season has so often been Hernanes, the brilliant Brazilian providing moments of magic are a key reason behind Lazio’s Serie A standing. With Roma missing their talisman, there is an opportunity for Hernanes to take the derby day centre stage and guide his team to victory.
It is sure to be an intriguing encounter, clashes when two Rome Giants meet always are. Lets hope for a fantastic match perhaps decided by a moment of magic. A piece of supreme skill. The whole of Rome awaits.