Let the Roman games commence. Like any local derby, the Stracittadina is fuelled with fierce rivalry both on and off the pitch. Whilst officials at the Stadio Olimpica will hope there is no off-the-field action, there is bound to be plenty of intriguing battles when the players take centre stage.
Luciano Spalletti vs. Delio Rossi
The capital’s Coaches have had contrasting fortunes so far this season. Whilst Delio Rossi’s Lazio were early pacesetters, Luciano Spalletti’s Roma have struggled to find the form that saw them miss out on last season’s Scudetto on the last day. Both meetings last season saw the home side run out 3-2 winners. On those occasions Rossi opted for a 4-3-3 formation and he is likely to adopt the same approach for this one too. With wide men Jeremy Menez and Rodriguez Taddei not performing to their full potential, Spalletti’s may well consider a 4-4-2 line to be his best option. With pressure mounting on the under-fire boss, the timing of this match could not be worse.
Francesco Totti vs. David Rosenthal
Recently back from injury, Giallorossi hit man Francesco Totti is not yet firing on all cylinders and if he is to make a significant impact, will have to rely on skill and guile to bring his team-mates into play rather than attack directly. After an unsuccessful spell with Newcastle, David Rozenhal is rediscovering the form that earned him Player of the Year accolade for Paris Saint-Germain in 2006/07. Strong in the tackle and a confident passer of the ball, the 28-year-old Czech looks to have cemented his place in the Lazio rearguard and will make life difficult for I Lupi’s talisman. Rozenhal is expected to come out on top in this particular duel, though Totti is capable of outwitting his opponent with wily invention.
Mirko Vucinic vs. Sebastiano Siviglia
Although Vucinic has only found the net once in Serie A this term, he offers more of a goal threat playing in a central role alongside Totti than he has out wide. Sebastiano Siviglia will need to call on all his experience if he is to contain Mirko Vucinic. The big Montenegrin has quick feet and is strong on the ball, and despite Lazio’s 35-year-old stopper being steady and reliable, if he allows the Roma hit man to turn and run at him, he could find himself in trouble.
Daniele De Rossi vs. Cristian Ledesma
The Derby della Capitale could hinge on the performances of two influential midfield maestros. The ongoing uncertainty of Cristian Ledesma’s Lazio future has put him out of favour with some Laziali, though he remains a key figure in the Aquile engine room. The 26-year-old Argentinean has great vision and with the ability to carve a defense-splitting ball may open up the back four for one of the forwards to take advantage of. The same applies for Giallorossi playmaker Daniele De Rossi. Though mostly recognised for his combative qualities, the youth system graduate is equally astute in advanced positions. With great technique and a deft touch the Italian international is useful around both boxes.
Phillipe Mexes vs. Mauro Zarate
Mauro Zarate is the latest in a line of quality Argentineans to grace Serie A turf, but Sunday’s game will find him standing in the towering shadow of Philippe Mexes. The Zarate kid scored six goals in his first five games after ceasing his opportunity in the starting eleven due to the injury of Tomasso Rocchi. Since his explosive start though, opposition defenders have tightened up on him and the South American has since found goals hard to come by. The 21-year-old can expect to be given precious little time on the ball against the Giallorossi gladiator and could be in for a very frustrating afternoon.
Juan vs. Goran Pandev
A return to the side for fit again Tomasso Rocchi will mean Goran Pandev can drop into his preferred role just behind the front two. The powerful Macedonian has a keen eye for goal and will pose a constant threat for Roma’s Juan, who has looked unconvincing this term. After a successful first season last time out, there is no doubting Juan’s ability, but the Brazilian is clearly suffering psychologically after Roma’s poor start to this campaign. If Pandev gets an opportunity to attack the centreback he may well exploit his frailties.
Rosella Sensi vs. Claudio Lotito
In the red corner, Rosella Sensi will be desperate for a win in the first Rome derby since taking charge following the death of her father, Franco. With Roma coach Luciano Spalletti commenting on the mental weaknesses of his player, the first lady of Serie A will no doubt have encouraging words to say about her father in a hope of inspiring her players to victory. In the blue corner, Claudio Lotito is desperate to bring success to the Biancocelesti after being overshadowed by their capital neighbours in recent times. Whereas former Aquile President Sergio Cragnotti flaunted his millions luring the cream of the crop to fly with the Eagles, Lotito’s philosophy has been to develop lesser-known talents. Both Presidents will be desperate for their team to come out on top in Sunday’s game – Roma need the points as much as the pride, whilst Lazio will be looking to step out of their rivals shadow and turn a bright start to the season into a title challenge.