Alex Mott looks ahead to this weekend’s bitter Derby della Capitale – the first since that famous Coppa Italia Final.
There’s perhaps no capital city in Europe that can boast a derby like it. Berlin? No. Paris? Definitely not. London? Arguably – although Fulham-Chelsea never seems to set the heart racing. Two top sides in the highest Division, battling like their lives depend on it – only the Derby della Capitale can truly offer the passion, intensity, rivalry and bitterness that fans all over Europe expect from a pair of local clubs going at it.
It’s Roma versus Lazio this Sunday, and it’s one of the most hotly-anticipated Eternal City League derbies in recent memory. Both teams go into the match having made decent starts to the 2013-14 campaign. The Giallorossi are unbeaten under new man Rudi Garcia, winning three out of three, and are impressing supporters everywhere with their intricate, fluid and pacey brand of football.
Monday’s win over Parma showed all that was best with the Lupi this term – a solid backline with new boys Maicon and Mehdi Benatia, an all-purpose midfield boasting Daniele De Rossi, Kevin Strootman and Miralem Pjanic, and seemingly ever-young Francesco Totti flanked by Adem Ljajic and youth product Alessandro Florenzi.
“We can go far with this [winning] mentality,” Pjanic admitted to Sky Sport Italia earlier this week. “We have a desire to win and we have the quality.”
Garcia, meanwhile, conceded to reporters: “There are many positive sensations right now, but we have much work still to do and need to be humble. We have been together as a squad for just two months.”
Those positive sensations will extend for a little while longer yet though, with news that Totti has extended his contract until 2016. The Roma icon turns 37 next week and what money on a tenth goal against the old enemy as a birthday celebration?
Lazio, however, will certainly hope not. And they’ll be eager to show that the Coppa Italia victory from last season was no fluke. The Biancocelesti beat their neighbours in the Final last May to claim their sixth Coppa, and this will be the first time the two meet since that famous night.
Vladimir Petkovic’s men have also strengthened over the summer, bringing in highly-rated Brazilian youngster Felipe Anderson – the ‘future of Lazio’ according to his agent – and beating off a host of rivals to sign Lucas Biglia from Anderlecht. It’s old boys Miroslav Klose, Antonio Candreva and Hernanes who have impressed the most though during these early stages of the campaign. Wins over Chievo and Udinese have lifted spirits on the blue side of the city, with the Juventus behemoth the only team to win against the Aquile so far.
In the capital, there’s no game bigger. It could be argued that in Serie A there’s not a match that can touch the rivalry that exists between Roma and Lazio. As Petkovic admitted on his arrival last year: “From the first day I got here the talk has been about the derby, as everyone urged me to win it. We are playing for three points, but they are certainly worth their weight in gold.” Especially to the fans…