Claudio Ranieri admits the Derby della Lanterna ‘is almost worth more than an entire season’ for rivals Sampdoria and Genoa. ‘It’s one of the most intense derbies in my career.’
It kicks off on Sunday at 19.45 GMT, click here for a match preview.
The Blucerchiati have won three consecutive Serie A games, including against Champions League sides Lazio and Atalanta, but Ranieri is keeping his feet firmly on the ground.
“I have always said the derby is a separate match from everything else. It doesn’t matter who is higher or lower in the table, if they are in Serie A, B or C, and that is what’s so wonderful about it. You step onto that pitch, you battle it out and city supremacy is in the balance.
“Genoa and Sampdoria have the same objective. We keep our heads down because if we are humble and determined, then we can achieve great things. I also won’t change my target for the season, which is to get points and secure safety as soon as possible. The fans can dream, but I know how dangerous Serie A can be.”
Genoa won the most recent Derby della Lanterna, although it’s not a result Ranieri agreed with.
“They won last time with only two shots on goal, whereas we’d had the best scoring opportunities. I saw Genoa play this season, they have good ideas and know how to pass the ball around well. It’ll be a very different game, even if I’ve already played against 3-5-2 opponents.”
The Derby on July 22 was played behind closed doors and that will be the case again tomorrow, as new lockdown measures removed the option to have 1,000 fans in the stadium.
“I have already said this doesn’t even feel like football without people in the stands, but we are getting used to it by now. The derby is passion, though, and in this case it’s a derby only on paper,” continued Ranieri.
“A victory in the derby can be worth almost more than an entire season, especially as nowadays the maximum Sampdoria and Genoa can aspire to is comfortable mid-table safety. We wait and hope for years when we can play more important derbies for positions higher up the table.”
These sides will meet again in the Coppa Italia Fourth Round next month, which should provide even more bragging rights.
Ranieri is the first Italian coach to experience the derbies in Milan, Turin, Rome and Genoa.
“There is something different about the Genoa Derby, a sacred air and a euphoria I’ve never seen before. I consider this one of the absolute most intense derbies experienced in my career.
“This is why I feel so disappointed we have to play it without the fans, albeit understanding the decisions of the Government during such a tough time for all our lives.”