The Marassi showdown between Genoa and Sampdoria is called the Derby della Lanterna after the lighthouse that shines bright over the port city. While the rivalries of Milan, Rome and Turin garner more attention, the one in Genoa has probably been most closely fought over the years and is perhaps seen as the most crucial fixture of the entire season for both sets of fans.
Both clubs have historical references that they can hang their hat on and use to mock their rivals. Genoa are the oldest active sporting club in Italy, having been formed in 1893 as the Genoa Cricket and Football Club, and have won nine Scudetti to Samp's single triumph in 1991. However, the most recent league title for the Grifone was in 1924, before Serie A as we know it was even formed.
On the other hand, the Blucerchiati have the bragging rights on the cup front, having won the Coppa Italia on four occasions to the Grifone's one, while also having won the only UEFA-recognised title for this city, the 1990 Cup Winners’ Cup.
In terms of overall encounters, Samp have a quite sizable advantage, having won 38 matches to Genoa's 24, with an incredible 36 games having been drawn after 98 clashes.
It is a season of renovation and revolution for both clubs, even if more on the field than off it. Unpopular Presidents Massimo Ferrero and Enrico Preziosi said publicly they were open to selling, but are set to begin another campaign at the helm regardless. Preziosi hasn’t dared show his face in the stadium for years now, which is just as well, considering the toy tycoon went through Coaches lately in a way that would make Maurizio Zamparini pause for thought. It would be a pity if Ferrero were to sell Samp, as the native Roman’s wide-eyed and wild-haired celebrations in the stands would be sorely missed.
They both have new tacticians in charge. Sampdoria lost Marco Giampaolo to Milan and arguably upgraded by bringing in Eusebio Di Francesco, who just over a year ago had taken Roma to the Champions League semi-final, only to be cast aside in March. His arrival was a sign of Samp’s ambition to stop hovering mid-table and make that leap up to European qualification.
For Genoa, after avoiding relegation by the skin of their teeth on the final day of last season, can Aurelio Andreazzoli stabilise the club and take them back up the table? His Empoli were very impressive and played some beautiful football, but were ultimately unable to stay in Serie A. It might seem strange to hire the Coach of the team you sent down last year, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone blaming Andreazzoli for their fate.
Pre-season friendlies have been excellent for the Grifone, winning six and drawing one against Nantes, including dramatic victories over Olympique Lyonnais and Girondins de Bordeaux.
It is intriguing to see that both Genoa and Sampdoria hired Coaches known to be pro-active, attacking and possession based. There were too many deeply dull performances from both sides last season, so this is certainly a step in the right direction. Whether they’ll be able to achieve that kind of football on the notoriously abysmal Stadio Luigi Ferraris pitch is another matter.
There is one man who positively relishes playing on that turf and it’s Fabio Quagliarella, last season’s Capocannoniere for Sampdoria at the age of 36. It’ll be interesting to see how the veteran fares in Di Francesco’s 4-3-3 formation, while in defence Joachim Andersen has been replaced by the experienced Colombian Jeison Murillo.
Genoa are surprisingly ambitious on the market this summer, bringing in ex-Milan defender Cristian Zapata to partner Cristian Romero, loaned back after his sale to Juventus. Lasse Schone is on his way from Ajax, fresh from the Champions League semi-final, bringing a real sense of class and quality to the middle of the park. Andrea Pinamonti has done well in pre-season, the Italy Under-21 international eager to finally get some regular playing time and Christian Kouame seeking a new strike partner after his Krzysztof Piatek fireworks.
The port city is tired of scrabbling for points in the bottom half of the table. It’s time to take the Derby della Lanterna up a few notches, so it means a lot more than just local pride.