Derby della Capitale: Roma - Lazio
"We knew that in Rome most of the people support the yellow-reds; but we believed also the light-blue had a lot of sympathy. We have to admit we were wrong: nine of ten of the immense audience that was in the Rondinella Stadium (the SS Lazio stadium) waved yellow-red flags, supporting their idols! We can rightly say that Lazio played... an away game."
(A newspaper report the day after the first derby, on December 9th, 1929, from asromaultras.it)
It's that time again, the time when angels descend from on high and the minions from Orcus' underground lair meet here on Earth in The Battle of Rome. You can throw it all out the window. All of it. The table, form, recent success and aspirations. A derby is different. This one's about pride, and it's about purging those bastards in baby blue once again.
Lazio go into the game on a high, losing to Udinese this past weekend, and having been utterly embarrassed by Milan at home just before the international siesta. (Oh, did I say form was out the windown? My bad.) Not only that, but Delio Rossi is about to be brought up to the calcio guillotine for this little nugget:
The court papers: “He attempted, without success, during a telephone conversation to induce S.S. Lazio President Claudio Lotito to take an initiative with the U.S. Lecce directors aimed at influencing the performance of the squad in the April 30, 2006 match.”
Rossi: “We have to start the negotiations with Lecce because we need them to be softened when they come here to play.”
Oops. So, not only is this the battle of good v evil figuratively, now it rings true in a literal sense. Congratulations Lazio, you've been caught cheating...again (hello, totonero).
Cheating aside, the big story is: Are we going to be afforded the presence of Him? Will Francesco play? At this point it's looking highly improbable, and you know something must be very wrong for Il Capitano to miss the derby, as was the case roughly 20 months ago (26/02/06 to be exact). Most media outlets report it as a no, but this will most likely be a game-time decision, and we won't really know until then.
While it may be better over the course of this lengthy campaign, he doesn't exactly have a boatload of derbies remaining; taking Ilary's word and we're looking at 8 - minus any Coppa or, heaven forbid, CL altercations (feel free to snicker aloud at the latter). In case you hadn't noticed, these mean quite a bit to him, and I can imagine he wants to step on the pitch as many times as possible before the sun sets on his career. Things must be quite bad on his end.
EDIT: Francesco is out. The end.
As has become the theme around here over the last week: In Vucigol we trust. We all know his striker stats (6 goals in 7), and we know what he's bringing to the table (chances on goal, the odd moment of individual flair and the occasional disappearing act). What's more is now Mirko is injured, with a mild groin issue - an issue which prevented him from celebrating after the goal in the San Siro. But he's a gamer, and TGIP needs him, so he'll play.
However, the problem becomes what happens in the event that Mirko simply can't play any longer and needs to be subbed off. No word as of yet whether or not Francesco will make the bench, and I suspect the only way he makes it onto the pitch is if Roma is down by one goal late. Other than that, who is the backup striker? Lulu Gulu? Mancini? Espo? Does Claudio Della Panna get a quick cup of joe? Does SuperMarco make a heroic run out of the tunnel onto the pitch and score another hat trick? We don't know. A very real issue for this team, and not just an issue for today or the near future. It should be addressed in January. Until then, we pray for health. And goals. Always goals. And for Lazio to be sent to Serie B (again). Inter too. That's it. And if you've got time, thrown in a little world peace.
* - Mark my words, after a few years Mirko will become just as beloved as any of the other non-Romanista in the squad. This is the same guy who refused to move to Milan because Roma was the only team for him. You can buy talent. You can't buy It.
Roma: Antunes, Barusso, Bertagnoli, Brighi, Cassetti, Curci, Cicinho, De Rossi, Doni, Esposito, Ferrari, Giuly, Juan, Mancini, Mexes, Panucci, Perrotta, Pit, Pizarro, Tonetto, Vucinic.
Lazio: * - You know the drill, TBA.
Go get some Kleenex. Totti is out - for now. Mirko's hurt, but should still play. King Alberto will miss his chance to recreate the derby in '06, much to the dismay of us all. Marco Andreolli whispered that his dream is to come in during the final 5 minutes of the derby and score the deciding goal. But he didn't whisper loud enough. He's out (obviously). Taddei is also out, and his injury is looking more and more serious by the day. Simone Perrotta is ready to go, but we'll see how long he is able to last. The last thing this team needs is anymore injuries. Pray for 3 points and health, that's all they need for this game.
Lazio? Who the fuck cares? Well, a little, but not much: Ledesma and Mauri are out, which limits their already severely limited attack even more. An impotent Lazio, who knew?
Cicinho, Mexes, Juan, Panucci;
Mancini, Perrotta, Tonetto;
I haven't the faintest. The RB/LB/RW/LB situation has taken me from giving the lineup an educated guess to "fuck it". I don't think I had one lineup correct in all of October - and if I did, it was only due to the ridiculously consistent occurrences of injuries. What's more, all the uncertainty has become a good thing, in that people aren't being benched due to poor form, but because others deserve to play. A nice problem to have.
Behrami, Stendardo, Cribari, Zauri;
Baronio, Mudingayi, Mutarelli;
They seem to favor the 4-4-2 against "better" teams, using it twice, but they lost both times, including getting embarrassed at the lands of Roma's latest conquest Milan; therefore, they may stick with the 4-3-1-2. So, to put this in layman's terms: They went the safe route and ended up getting steamrolled. If Lazio was a broken clock it would be wrong all fuckin' day long.
Could be the 87 year old Ballotta or rook Muslera, either way, it's downright dreamy. With Mauri down at Cisco Roma sodomizing Paolo Di Canio and Ledesma spending the game at the local kinko's faxing his resume to Moratti, that "1" spot becomes a toss up. Could be Manfredini (frightened), Del Nero (shakin' in me boots) or Meghni (oh the horror). In other words: it really doesn't matter. You can hide shit in a casserole, but at the end of the day it's still going to taste like shit.
J-Smooth & Philou v Pandev & Rocchi: This one is relatively self-explanatory. Rocchi regularly puts up double-digit goal totals, though presumably against "softened opponents", and Pandev looks to be approaching that plateau (also against the softies, of course). Then you have the Crockett & Tubbs of AS Roma (it's perfect and you know it - their new, official nickname) in Juan and Mexes, who have taken to regularly closing down ground play. Advantage certainly lies with the good guys, but it'll be a physical battle.
Roma's Finishing Booties v Whoever The Fuck Lazyo Has In Goal: If Lazyo throws Senior Citizen Ballotta in goal, they're going to suck. If Lazyo throws Muslera in net, they're going to suck more. This is the type of game an attacking team like Roma dreams of. It's the night where legends (aka Vincenzo Montellas) are made. Where boys become men. Where we separate the good from the better. Gentleman: Shoot hard. Shoot high. Shoot often. Then shoot a little more.
Simone v Injuries: It was clear during the Milan game all was not 100% with Simone. It's also clear he is an integral cog in the system, the system which was largely designed for him, and through which Roma is able to typically attain offensive and defensive equilibrium. There are two main questions here: How hurt is he? And can he abstain from getting hurt again or more hurt than he already is? Matteo Brighi has proven to be a capable vice-Perrotta, but at the moment he hasn't proven to be a substitute for the real thing. Simone staying healthy and running around like the madman that he is enables this team to achieve just that much more, for the derby and every other game. Also, I predicted in the season preview that he'd shock the world and use those cement finishing shoes of his and score 3 goals against the baby slappers this year. I stand by my prediction (alright, I'm ducking behind it, but I'm still in the vicinity).
Space On The Flanks v Lazio's Head On A Stick: If Zauri and Behrami's piss poor excuse for highlights allow Roma space on the flanks, Roma will murder them. Absolutely murder them. Lazio doesn't have the central defense/midfield that Milan does, and giving Cicinho (or whomever) a couple hours down the flanks will make this a Roma target practice sesh. They'll find either an open trailer, someone who has opened up space in the box, Mirko for a header or simply burn you one v one to create their own chances. This also works best if Mancini stays wide, and hits optimal if he pairs with Cicinho out there. If you see Mancini and Cicinho out on the flanks and given consistent space within the first 15 minutes, feel free to break out the bubbly early, cause it's gonna be a shit show.
The Lone Romanista: Alone stands Daniele De Rossi, the only Romanista on a team that typically boasts 3, and occasionally more. Therefore, having grown up the son of a Roma player and coach in the Roman youth system, he bears the weight of this game on his shoulders, and the armband on his sleeve. The stars are aligning for this to be his day. Yes, he has all the talent in the world, but this game has nothing to do with that. This game's about heart. At 24, he has the opportunity to further cement his status as a Roman legend. Knowing Daniele, he'll do just that.
Form and the table notwithstanding, I fully expect this to be an all Giallorossi affair, with plenty of quick defending, smooth passing and controlling possession in Lazyo's half, all while waiting for the perfect chance at the sieve in front of the Biancocelesti net. If anything, Tubbs & Crockett have proven over the last few weeks that they are quickly becoming, if they aren't already, the best central defense partnership in the entire peninsula. Actually, let's check that:
Juventus? Piss poor and then some.
Milan? On a good day I suppose it's Maldini & Nesta, but age really limits them these days.
Fiorentina? They've played well, but it's certainly not dominating.
So I believe it's fair to say they are the best central defense partnership in Serie A. Have a little bit of that shoved down your throat, Rocchi, and then get back to me. The back line should be effective and efficient, as Lazio are also missing Mauri and Ledesma, two of their most gifted attackers on a team which has had issues scoring with anything other than little boys in the first place. Lazio is going to have difficulty scoring a goal against this defense.
If the D can close down quickly (especially if we see a defender at winger to lock down that avenue), then this is a game for David Pizarro to sit on the ball (which he does more rarely these days, as it seems the new playmaker is DDR...), knock the ball out wide, and back in, and back out, and back in, and hold up play while waiting for The Roman Clusterfuck to form. At which point you start shooting and waiting for rebounds, because you know they're coming and they have the goal poacher extraordinaire up there in Vucigol. Of course that's not Roma's style, so they'll find the lanes (oh they will be there) from the flanks to the middle of the pitch, and create the subsequent chances.
Derby's are always tough, but this is a should win. Enthusiasm and passion and utter hatred helps, but this Roma team is vastly superior in every way to the sky blues even without the presence of Il Capitano. Add the system to the equation and we're talking about a mismatch of great proportions. Should be a typical Roma win this year: controlling possession, getting a relatively early goal(s) before settling down and driving the final nail into the coffin in the second half.
In the event that Francesco plays and is healthy enough to make at least a 75% impact, bump all of this up a notch.
Daniele Fans The Flames
"We are a very strong side. I think we're superior to Lazio. I don't think I'm being arrogant, but in the last few derbies we were not strong or lucky enough to translate this superiority into a victory."
Code: We're going to crush them.
Derbies Of Yore
The video from yesterday's post, a must watch.
Game: 3-0 Roma
Goals: Daniele De Rossi (28), Perrotta (41, 67) No way in hell I'm copping out.
When: 2030 CET, 1530 US EST (The recently changed difference from 6 to 5 hours is due to daylight savings, so the times are accurate - don't even ask how long it took me to figure that one out)
Where: Stadio Olimpico, Roma (Yes, Roma is the "home" team)
Forecast: 15°C with a 70% chance of rain.
US TV: FSC Live @ 3:30