The 165th instalment of the Derby della Capitale is upon us as Lazio and Roma get ready ahead of Sunday’s clash.
Let’s wind the clock back to the 3rd of April 2016. Lazio and Roma, the eternal rivals, faced off once again in a sun-drenched Stadio Olimpico for the Derby della Capitale.
Once all was said and done, Roma came out victorious for the third time in a row with a comfortable 4-1 win, stretching their unbeaten streak in the derby to six games. Stranded in eighth place, well off the pace of their rivals, Lazio sacked manager Stefano Pioli and looked to youth team coach Simone Inzaghi to plug the rapidly sinking ship.
Inzaghi declared that he was “ready” for the challenge and in the final seven games of the season he led the side to four victories. Not incredible, but enough to keep them afloat. Eighth place would have to do for the Biancocelesti.
Although Inzaghi impressed somewhat in his brief stint, over the summer Lazio looked elsewhere to rebuild. The Eagles went for Marcelo Bielsa, only to find out that he wasn’t nicknamed El Loco for no reason. Despite having signed a contract to manage the club, the notoriously stubborn Argentine refused to do so, citing broken promises. Yet one man’s loss is another’s gain, and so Simone found himself at the helm once more.
Despite expectations being low early on and the club still being berated by supporters for various reasons, Inzaghi has gone on to lead Lazio to fourth in the league and to just a point behind Roma. A very impressive start considering the swathe of departures over the summer, which included the likes of Miroslav Klose and Antonio Candreva.
With their only two losses of the season coming against the ever-potent Juventus and a revitalized Milan side, Lazio’s impressive form has somewhat flown under the radar. Inzaghi’s side are unbeaten in nine matches, a record only bested in Europe’s top five leagues by Real Madrid, Liverpool, Hoffenheim and Red Bull Leipzig.
If Lazio are to go on and win, they will need the resurgent Felipe Anderson and Ciro Immobile to step up and make a difference against a very good Roma team. Both Anderson and Immobile had poor seasons last year, with the former failing to live up to an impressive 2014/15 campaign, and the latter finding himself back at Torino after a dismal few months in Seville.
For Immobile especially, being in familiar surroundings in Italy has done the former capocannoniere a world of good. After disappointing spells in Germany and Spain, Immobile has seemingly found his feet again, with nine goals in 14 Serie A appearances showing that the player that tormented defenders in 2014 could be back. Despite this, though, Immobile hasn’t scored since match day 11 against Sassuolo, which was over a month ago. If the biancocelesti are to come out victorious at the weekend, then they may need their top scorer to show up, and what better stage is there than the Derby della Capitale to end a goal drought?
Alongside Immobile, Felipe Anderson has also found himself back in form after a disappointing season last time out. The Brazilian has already matched the amount of assists he reached in all competitions last season (6) in just 13 games this season. With two goals on top of that, under Inzaghi, Anderson looks to be back to his best and will be hoping to score in the derby for the second time, his first goal coming back in 2015 in a hotly contested 2-2 draw.
It’s not just up front, though, where Lazio look reinvigorated. At the back, they strengthened in the summer and it has paid off. Inzaghi’s side have conceded just 14 goals in the league, only second to Juventus’ 12. The additions of Wallace and Bastos have added depth to help cover for the often injury stricken Stefan de Vrij, who will be available for selection for the derby after recovering from a metatarsal fracture.
With a streak to end and a point to prove, Lazio look poised to take advantage of a talented yet careless Roma team, who may unwisely take their opponents lightly.
However, despite hopes being higher and there being a palpable sense of optimism for the first time in quite a while, the game is likely to lack the fire and brimstone that it used to offer. The infamous ultras will most likely not be attending, once again, in protest of safety restrictions put in place by both clubs.
For those that will attend, though, this game means more than any other. Due to the lack of success for both teams, in terms of filling their respective trophy cabinets, many fans on both sides tend to define their seasons on how they perform in the derby. No pressure then, eh?