Stefano Pioli takes his Milan team to the Stadio Olimpico to face Roma, but his record against the Giallorossi is one that may be of concern.
Overall, the Parma-born coach has a record of just three wins, seven draws and 11 losses versus I Lupi. The situation was even more disconcerting when involved in the Rome Derby, as in charge of Lazio Pioli managed one draw and three defeats. The 54-year-old made his debut on the Milan bench with a disappointing 2-2 draw against Lecce, another team clad in yellow and red, so it seems these colours are like Kryptonite for Pioli.
So before you start placing your football bet on the Stadio Olimpico fixture, let's analyse the four games he managed during the intense battle that is the Derby della Capitale.
His first clash came in his 20th game in charge of the Biancocelesti in the 2014-2015 campaign. Both teams were going great guns at the time, as Roma were in second place, while Lazio were just behind them in third, with both seemingly on track for a Champions League spot. Before the half-hour mark, Pioli's charges were 2-0 to the good with brilliant goals from Stefano Mauri and Felipe Anderson.
However, they sat back on the lead, and whether that was the players’ own doing or instructions direct from the tactician caused much debate in the aftermath. This particular Derby became famous for the "Totti Selfie", as the Roma captain scored both goals to tie the game up, the second of which was a flying volley that left the world in awe of his genius. As if to rub salt into the wound, he proceeded to take a selfie in front of the Curva Sud. Totti is always the showman.
Sadly for Pioli, things never got any better from there on derby day. It was not just that his team lost three times in a row against the hated rivals, but the manner in which they suffered those defeats. Rome is a city that lives in extremes, the team is either very good or rubbish.
At the end of that same season, Pioli led his team out on a Monday night under the bright lights in the capital and suffered a 1-2 loss, in a match that they were a bit unfortunate to end empty-handed. They conceded the first and third goals in the encounter, the last of which came just five minutes from the end with a Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa goal. What made it particularly devastating for Pioli was that it meant that they missed the chance to overtake Roma in the standings, keeping them in third. Although they eventually finished in the Champions League position, that they placed third meant that they had to go through the play-off, which they subsequently lost to Bayer Leverkusen... Oh, what might have been for Pioli and his team had they qualified automatically for Europe's most prestigious competition.
The following season, Lazio seemed to fall apart, as they folded like a pack of cards both times when faced with their city rivals. It started with a 0-2 loss in the first Derby of the year, where they were never really in it, but worse was to come several months later.
Derbies and rivalry games can make or break players and managers alike and what happened on the evening of April 3, 2016 broke the partnership between Lazio and Pioli.
The signs that it was not going to be a good match for his team probably came the moment that Stephan El Shaarawy opened the scoring in the match with a header. The Italian international has a number of appreciable attributes, but his heading ability has never really been one of them. Just after the hour mark, Edin Dzeko scored a tap in. Further goals by Alessandro Florenzi and Diego Perotti compounded matters for an eventual 4-1 result.
All that happened with Roma stalwarts Totti and Daniele De Rossi on the bench.
It would be the final time that Pioli managed in a Derby della Capitale against Roma, as, and it came as no shock to anyone in the football world, Pioli was sacked soon after.
As he prepares to take on his Achilles heel that is AS Roma, one wonders what might be going through Pioli’s mind? Following the dropped points in his first match with Milan, he is well aware that an improved performance and result is needed.
He can only hope that his recent experiences with Roma will be more reassuring. After all, two of those total three victories against them came in the last four meetings, including Fiorentina’s 2-0 win at the Olimpico in April 2018. Above all, Pioli can look to the historic 7-1 demolition job that his Viola inflicted on Roma in the Coppa Italia quarter-final only 10 months ago.