If you need further motivation to get up for a match against Inter Milan, you obviously haven't been following Roma for very long. Inter, who kept Roma from several Scudettos over the past dozen years, are all that stand between the Giallorossi and their ticket to the Coppa Italia finals against an awaiting Lazio.
So to recap:
- Away match against Inter
- One step away from the Coppa Italia Finals
- Said final would be against Lazio
- Which would mean three derbies in one season
- Beating Lazio would give Roma the Coppa Italia Title
- Which would be their 10th- most in league history
- Which would emblazon the new Nike kits with a shiny silver star
- Oh yeah, the victory would ensure a spot in next year's Europa League
I'm sure there are a few others I'm missing, but if you're like me and need little reason to hate Inter, you've been seething since the first leg in January. We should also throw this into the mix: Inter are in the exact same spot as Roma, desperately chasing Europa League qualification through either the ‘Get ahead of Lazio' or ‘Win The Coppa' routes-which are technical football terms.
Before we delve into the second leg of this semi-final, a bit of history: Roma and Inter have squared off 12 times in Coppa Italia history, with Inter getting the best of Roma on seven of those occasions, with three losses and two draws. However, when we look at recent history, Roma starts to look a bit better. In their past six matches (all competitions) against Inter, the Giallorossi have managed three victories and three draws, leaving Inter winless over those half dozen contests. However, when we delve a bit deeper, we see that Roma has not fared quite as well at the Meazza, defeating Inter only once in Milan over their past six away matches, dating back to 2010.
With three historic trends converging in one match and both clubs needing the same fusion of fortunes to qualify for Europe, the outcome is truly anyone's guess, making a third derby anything but a certainty.
Why the semi-final is the only round with two-legs is beyond me, but let's take a quick look at how we got here and what to expect on Wednesday.
The first half of this semi-final was played in Rome in late January, with Roma taking the honors that night, 2-1. But, and this is a big but, Inter scored the always crucial away goal.
Alessandro Florenzi opened the scoring ledger in the 13th minute, heading home a cross from Ivan Piris, giving Roma the early lead. Twenty minutes later, Piris provided another cross, this time to Mattia Destro, with the same result, a headed goal past a helpless Samir Handanvoic. This goal, his third in the Coppa, leads all scorers in this year's tournament.
Rodrigo Palacio would earn the precious away goal in the 44th minute, throwing caution, and his rat tail, to the wind, slotting the ball past an onrushing Maarten Stekelenburg. Away goals in aggregate matches are always painful, but why did it have to be him?
As our Torino match review spoke to, and what you probably deduced yourself, this weekend's match was definitely played with an eye towards this semi-final. Look no further than the limited minutes granted to Francesco Totti, Miralem Pjanic and Alessandro Florenzi, each of whom figure to feature heavily on Wednesday-granted it doesn't take much deductive power to figure out that Totti will assume his normal role in such an important match
Mid-week matches being what they are, no matter the competition, the story is usually who is (or is not) recovering from the weekend's matches. From the Roman perspective, this concerns Pjanic, Erik Lamela and Pablo Osvaldo, each of whom underwent treatment for minor injuries in the wake of Sunday's victory. Though none were considered serious and all three are expected to be available, it's still something to keep an eye on.
As far as the Nerazzurri are concerned, the aforementioned Palacio is all but certain to miss this match, while Walter Gargano and Yuto Nagatomo were subbed off during Inter's defeat to Cagliari, each sustaining leg injuries that might keep them out well beyond this second leg. The Inter injury list is long and lustrous, including the likes of Diego Milito and Antonio Cassano, among others.
Despite Javier Zanetti's urging and positive vibing, Inter do not enter this match under the best of circumstances. Injuries aside, they've lost four of their past five matches and currently sit one point behind Roma, right in the thick of the Europa League hunt. So the motivations for each squad are identical, even if their recent form is not.
So what about our guys? How will Andreazzoli manage this leg?
As we discussed in the Torino review, the Andreazzoli-Ranieri comparisons are mounting, both in form and function. While there are arguments for and against tinkering with one's tactics and lineups, Andreazzoli has certainly emulated Claudio in this regard, rolling out a 3-4-2-1, a 4-1-2-1-2 and a variant of his predecessor's 4-3-3 in successive weeks. And, as we saw over the weekend, his ‘a-win-is-a-win-is-a-win' approach could have been taken straight from the Ranieri manual. But when you're fighting for credibility, let alone a paycheck, you do what you gotta do.
Through Andreazzoli's first nine matches in charge, the club is averaging 1.5 goals per match, slightly below Zeman's pace. Using my imaginary database, when you cross reference Andreazzoli's scoring output with his choice of formation(s), you see that Roma is at its most prolific under AA when he deploys some variant of the three man back line, be it with four or five midfielders. These were the formations responsible for the multi-goal matches against Atalanta, Genoa and Parma. Granted, the sample size here is relatively small, but the general offensive performance the past two weeks hasn't been awe inspiring and the shift to a four man backline was really the only significant change from Andreazzoli's usual M.O., so you'll forgive my spurious reasoning.
But with a slim one goal lead, not to mention the concession of an away goal in the first leg, AA's tactical approach to this match carries extra significance. One Inter goal and the face of this match changes entirely, so will Andreazzoli press the issue looking for an early goal or set up a 90-minute convoy in front of Stekelenburg? Hard to say for sure, but with over 30 goals scored in their last 10 league encounters, I wouldn't hold my breath hoping for a scoreless draw in this one.
Earlier we mentioned the convergence of three historic trends, Inter's historic Coppa domination over Roma, Roma's recent form over Inter, and Roma's lack of success on the road versus Inter. However, there is a much more interesting rule of three at play here, and it's really the most interesting scenario a Coppa semifinal can present: two clubs (Roma and Inter) separated by one point in the league, each chasing the same club (Lazio) for European qualification, who also happen to be waiting in the Coppa finals, a victory in which also grants European qualification.
Two teams in direct competition with one another, each following the same roads to European qualification, while also sharing a common enemy...I guess this second leg isn't a bad idea after all.