This weekend sees two bitter rivals attempt to rekindle their seasons and qualify for Europe as Lazio host Roma in the infamous Derby Della Capitale. This heated fixture is one of the most eagerly anticipated events on the Calcio calendar and both sides’ current predicament looks set to ensure that it takes on an added sense of importance. Failure to qualify for Europe would be an unthinkable scenario for two illustrious sides with such a glittering history.
Three consecutive defeats to sides languishing in the bottom half of the table have put a significant dent in Lazio’s European dreams. Defeats to Chievo, Catania and most recently Siena has seen the Biancocelesti slip to ninth in the table – eight points adrift of Roma and 11 behind fifth placed Fiorentina, with just eight games remaining. Although European qualification remains a possibility via success in the Coppa Italia, under fire Coach Delio Rossi will want to see a strong finish to the season from his under performing side, who still have to play the likes of Inter and Juventus in a tough run-in.
Roma, meanwhile, will be looking to capitalise on Lazio’s recent slip and consolidate their own claims for a Champions League place. After a disappointing March, which saw a heavy home defeat by title-chasing Juventus as well as a Champions League exit at the hands of Arsenal, i Lupi look to be back on track. Two penalties from the returning Francesco Totti last weekend gave them a vital 2-1 victory over struggling Bologna and took them to within three points of Fiorentina. Coach Luciano Spalletti will no doubt have been delighted with his striker’s return to fitness, but he faces an injury dilemma ahead of this weekend’s game, with the attacking duo of Jeremy Menez and top scorer Mirko Vucinic both facing a fight to be fit and considered for selection.
After narrowly losing out on the Scudetto to Inter last term, many expected la Magica to mount a challenge for the title again this campaign. However, a torrid start to the season gave Spalletti’s side a monumental task, which has proved difficult to overturn. The Derby Della Capitale always proves to be an exciting and passionate affair and this will be no exception. A second half effort from Julio Baptista was enough to give Roma a narrow victory in the reverse fixture earlier this season, but there has been little to choose between the sides in recent fixtures and last season saw two five-goal thrillers, resulting in each side winning one apiece.
One player Lazio will need to be aware of is Simone Perrotta. I Lupi’s playmaker seems to relish these games and managed to net in both games between the two last term. The 31 year-old looked to have done enough to secure a point for his side in the corresponding fixture last season, before a stoppage time goal handed victory to Lazio. However, his goal in the reverse fixture last season proved decisive as his side claimed a 3-2 victory. However, Lazio too have a derby weapon ready to be unleashed in Tommaso Rocchi. Le Aquile’s Captain, like Perrotta, scored in each of the games last season and Rossi will hope that he can re-create that form and lift the feeling of negativity surrounding the club.
After failing to score in their last three games, Rossi may be tempted to shake up his misfiring front line and he must now decide between siding with the experienced Goran Pandev or handing a start to veteran striker Simone Inzaghi. The former has struggled in recent games and missed a penalty in the recent defeat at Catania, however, his partnership with Rocchi provided two of the three goals against Roma in the aforementioned fixture and Rossi will be hoping he can end his barren run and ensure his side remain in the top half of the table.
It makes for a mouth-watering derby that neither side can realistically afford to lose should they harbour any hopes of qualifying for next season’s desired European competition.