The beauty of sport is that no matter how badly you have performed, there will always very soon be another occasion where you can try and put things right. Roma have had quite a few bad games this season, but this week, culminating in the derby against Lazio, could produce the icing on a very productive week of football. The home victory over Lecce last weekend has shot them up the table, the away win in Switzerland against Basel has put their Champions League qualification back on the agenda and, if they manage to complete a hat-trick of wins in seven days and defeat their arch enemies, then the smiles will be back on every Roma supporter’s face.
This will not be an easy task as contrary to the last few seasons, Lazio are currently outpacing the Giallorossi and find themselves sitting pretty at the top of Serie A. Claudio Ranieri’s men have yet to hit any consistency and the game against Basel on Wednesday was just as difficult to watch as any of their previous matches. Flashes of brilliance interspersed with nail-biting moments and defensive edginess that have undoubtedly aged the Roma coach by around five years. The Champions League match encompassed much of this season’s general performances. A victory earned through blood and sweat, there is no confident swagger about the Giallorossi this season. Three points that have had to be ripped from the grasp of their opponents instead of them being given up through an inferiority complex. No team has yet appeared to fear playing Roma.
As we mentioned at the top of the article, football allows redemption no matter how serious the sin. I Lupi are not playing particularly well but they have steadied themselves of late and if there was ever a good time to meet their seemingly unstoppable local city rivals then this is it. These games are notorious for going against form; emotion, nerves and desire usually usurp any football tactic. Edy Reja, although he will not admit it, must surely be thinking a potential Scudetto is theirs for the taking this season.
His closest opponents are all tripping over themselves, dropping points like trees dropping their autumn leaves. This is no longer just a derby game for the Biancocelesti; this is a potential three points towards claiming Serie A. Roma, on the other hand, will want this win to save face and save their season. This is the derby and nothing else, the Scudetto is not on their minds, all that matters to them is defeating their biggest football foes. The approach to the game by both teams will be fascinating and Sunday just cannot come quick enough.
Injuries and suspensions is what we have become accustomed to discussing each week for Ranieri’s team and this time is no different. Francesco Totti misses out due to his red card last weekend and Nicolas Burdisso is the most-recent injury concern. His ankle has not suffered any serious damage but he is at huge risk of missing out on Sunday. Philippe Mexes would normally step in but he has had a fever and though he should recover, will undoubtedly be below par, not having been able to train for much of the week.
The debate regarding the team’s formation continues as the 4-4-2, though bringing in positive results has yet to provide 90 minutes of convincing football. The lack of wingers is still the issue though the recuperated Jeremy Menez is going someway to alleviating the problem, on one side of the pitch at least. His vital contribution against Basel was most notable and here at Club Focus, we hope he continues to be used out wide. His ability to beat a man and run towards goal at speed is a potentially devastating attribute to have (just ask Inter’s Maicon after having faced Gareth Bale of Spurs). There are mutterings that he could be used as ‘trequartista’ against Lazio, behind the front two of Marco Borriello and Mirko Vucinic, but we feel his effectiveness is lost in what usually ends up becoming a congested area of the pitch. Out wide he is usually only faced with one full back to beat, and if necessary he can cut into the middle when least expected – as he did on Wednesday – where he can overload the opposition centre backs and cause damage.
We will end with congratulating Leandro Greco, who scored the decisive goal midweek against the Swiss. Those of you who have followed our Club Focus from the start of the season may remember that we mentioned this young midfielder as one to keep an eye on. Well, we only had to wait a few minutes to see the impact this player can have on matches and we certainly hope to see some more of him as the season progresses. If he grabs a goal on Sunday, we will congratulate him once again.