Not since the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312AD has a Roman civil war been as keenly contested as it will this Sunday. Back in the 4th Century, Constantine the Great claimed control over a large portion of the Roman Empire when he defeated co-Emperor Maxentius. A short distance from the famous Ponte Milvio is the Stadio Olimpico, the scene of this Sunday’s civil scrap, the Coppa Italia Final. It’s probably the most significant decider in a number of years.
When Lazio and Roma clash, the main thing up for grabs is silverware. It may ‘only’ be the Coppa Italia, but make no mistake, both clubs and their supporters want to lift the trophy against the other. Want proof? Note the clamour for tickets when they were made available. Fans want to be part of the occasion. Only twice have sides from the same city contested the Final. In 1937-38 Juventus defeated Torino, while an all-Milano affair decided the 1976-77 edition – the Rossoneri sealing their fourth crown.
Capital bragging rights are at stake. It would be the ultimate joy for supporters to see their respective club captains hoist the trophy high into the Roman sky having vanquished their hated foe. In addition to a sweet victory is the added caveat of European football in 2013-14. There’s one Europa League place up for grabs and it belongs to the winner.
Lazio are protecting a recent unbeaten Derby della Capitale record. They’ve not tasted defeat since March 2011, winning three of the last four. Claiming a European spot along with their sixth Coppa will be a fine end to a positive first season in charge for Vladimir Petkovic. For President Claudio Lotito, the Final is the catalyst for next season. “We want to strengthen the squad, that’s for sure. But that will depend on whether we can achieve our objective.”
They battled bravely this term, ultimately sliding down the ladder as the Europa League push intensified. But when Petkovic said Lazio would honour the Cup competitions he meant it. “We did very well in Europe, reaching the quarter-finals, while we have the opportunity to win the Coppa Italia. We can give a sense of consistency to what we have achieved this term,” he said prior to the League-ending loss against Cagliari.
Petkovic will be sweating over the fitness of Hernanes, who missed Cagliari along with Stefan Radu, and Bruno Pereirinha. However, the Brazilian maestro did rejoin training with the main group earlier in the week at the team’s retreat in Umbria. Michael Ciani and Ogenyi Onazi have skipped recent matches but are hopeful of taking part.
The Lupi too have injury concerns to contend with. Daniele De Rossi, Federico Balzaretti, Marquinhos and Maarten Stekelenburg all missed the Serie A closer versus Napoli last Sunday. Totti was suspended for that victory, so will be fresh heading into the Final.
The biggest news surrounding Roma at present is the ongoing coaching saga. Walter Mazzarri’s decision to leave Napoli has him linked to the Trigoria post. Milan’s Massimiliano Allegri is another contender. But for current boss Aurelio Andreazzoli, change is not required. “Have Roma already found my successor? Have you forgotten that there is already a Coach here with full power to do his job? I get bored repeating the same things all the time. I’ve already said that I’d confirm myself in the job.” Adding the Coppa to his CV will be a feather in Andreazzoli’s cap. That, along with Europe, could convince the Giallorossi owners he deserves a permanent gig.
Finishing on a high note is a chance to prove they have moved forward in the two seasons since the new ownership arrived. This is after looking unlikely European contenders when Zdenek Zeman was sacked. Cup success also ensures Roma are the first club to win the competition 10 times, allowing a silver star to be added to their shirt.
It will be a nervous few days in the Eternal City, for a clash shaping up to be the most memorable Final since the recent abolition of the two-legged affair. Rome will be rocking on Sunday evening as fierce rivals battle for the trophy and so much more.