It has been a decade since the last time both Roman clubs qualified for the group stage of the Champions League.
A Tale of Two Cities
Like many Italian cities, the loyalties of Roman fans are divided, quite starkly, between two clubs; AS Roma and SS Lazio. The origin of the rivalry between the clubs can be traced back to 1927, when three of the city’s clubs united to form AS Roma, with Lazio choosing to remain independent. Since that time, the Derby Della Capitale has been one of the most hotly-contested rivalries in the world of football. With neither team having achieved much success in Europe’s premier competition, hopes are once again on the rise due to both clubs’ domestic form, and the expansion of Serie A’s Champions League qualification slots from three in the current year, to four beginning in the 2018-2019 season.
Roma last qualified for the group stage of the Champions League in the 2015-2016 season, losing in the round of 16 to Real Madrid 4-0 on aggregate. So far this season, Roma are sitting on 15 points, just one behind their city rivals with a game in hand. Coming on the heels of a 2-0 victory on the road at Milan, and with the prolific Edin Dzeko scoring at will, Roma look poised to lock down one of the four spots for qualification into next season’s Champions League. The Bosnian striker has an impressive haul of seven goals in six matches, scoring at a rate of one goal per 74 minutes of play.
Thus far this season, Roma’s only domestic hiccup has come at the hands of Inter, with a 3-1 loss in their week one matchup at the Stadio Olimpico. Since that game, Roma have gone unbeaten in six matches, including a Champions League road win at Qarabag. With a domestic goal different of +10, Roma fans’ enthusiasm and expectation for qualification into next season’s Champions League is far from misplaced.
Lazio last qualified for the group stage of the Champions League in the 2007-2008 season, where they finished at the bottom of a group consisting of Real Madrid, Werder Bremen and Olympiacos. The Biancoceleste missed out on the group stage in 2015 after losing their playoff versus Bayer Leverkusen 3-1 on aggregate. So far this season, Lazio have impressed; winning five out of seven matches, sitting in fourth place with a +10 goal differential.
With the exception of a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Serie A favorites Napoli, Lazio have truly been in exceptional form – having destroyed Milan 4-1 and Sassuolo 6-1 in recent weeks. Behind the superior goal scoring from their star striker Ciro Immobile, Lazio fans are once again dreaming of Champions League nights. Thus far, the Italian striker has accounted for nine of his club’s nineteen goals on the season, with a scoring rate of one goal per 70 minutes of play – placing Immobile currently in second place behind Juventus’ Paulo Dybala in the race for this season’s capocannoniere.
Whether or not both teams manage to maintain their current scintillating form for the duration of the season remains to be seen. However, it has been quite some time since both teams looked impressive enough to simultaneously warrant serious consideration for qualification into the Champions League. Regardless of the outcome, fans in the city of Rome can rest assured that whichever club they happen to support, their team is clearly making strides to cement their elite status domestically, and with any hope, in Europe as well.