Roma and Lazio share the Serie A spotlight on a rare Monday Night encounter. If that novelty isn't enough to garner your attention, consider these factors:
1. It's the second of possibly three installments of the Derby della Capitale
2. Lazio have claimed the crown of Rome on three straight occasions
3. Roma are only three points behind Lazio, who currently hold Italy's last Europa League spot (though they're level with Inter at 50 points)
4. It's Roma v Lazio!
For a more contextualized look at the recent history of this rivalry, I'll refer you to our preview from November. All you need to know on Monday night is this: an already caustic rivalry suddenly has an added twist of tension, given their proximity on the table and a possible Coppa Italia title match looming; it's a double-European standoff, if you will.
As is usually the case when the blocs of Rome square off, there was a veritable cornucopia of cards. All told, Gianluca Rocchi handed out 10 cards, including two reds; business as usual in the Derby della Capitale.
But, when they weren't busy incurring the wrath of Rocchi, the two sides managed five goals. Starting that party was Erik Lamela, who headed home a corner in the 9th minute, giving Roma the early lead, but that would be the only goal Roma scored for nearly 80 minutes.
Meanwhile, Lazio scored three goals in just over ten minutes, highlighted by Antonio Candreva's blast from well over 25-yards that went screeching past a helpless Mauro Goicoechea. Miroslav Klose, as he's known to do, scored eight minutes later, taking a feed from Hernanes and slotting it past Goicoechea.
Then Daniele De Ross did this:
Pretty soft by De Rossi red card standards. Nevertheless, Stefano Mauri would score in the 46th minute, putting the game effectively in doubt, though Miralem Pjanic took one back for short-handed Roma in the 86th minute. Fortunately, Roma rebounded from this match, running off four victories in a row.
Monday Night Calcio:
You've heard this quite a bit over the past few months and little will change over the next eight weeks. Barring a complete collapse, the refrain will remain the same: Europe is still, blah, blah, blah...making every game....etc. etc. etc. Brevity aside, the next two months are crucial to the goals of this club, both near and far...in case you hadn't heard, there is still an actual strategy being employed.
So while we wait for the day that all of Europe trembles under Roman heels, let's take a look at how the Giallorossi will attempt to get off the Derby schneid and back into the European party.
To call last week's performance listless and disappointing is an insult to their very definitions; Roma squandered a gigantic opportunity in the most hideous of fashions. As we mentioned in the match review, this Roma was nothing new, so there's not much to glean from that defeat. Besides, if it keeps happening, have we really learned anything?
Part of the fallout from last week has been the sudden scrutiny of Andreazzoli's defensive tactics, namely the deployment of the three man backline. But were the poor performances put in by Nicolas Burdisso and Ivan Piris emblematic of a systemic flaw, personifications of international fatigue or simply isolated incidents of ineffectiveness?
We are capable of changing system because I have players who can adapt to any situation. The derby is worth three points, but also much more than that. We need to use the ability to suffer under pressure and turn that pressure into positive energy
But taking a look at this week's squad list, the absence of Piris and the seemingly forgotten Federico Balzaretti would seem to point to a trio of Marquinhos, Burdisso and Leandro Castan lining up in front of Maarten Stekelenburg. Despite last week's flub, Piris has been pretty solid under Andreazzoli, though he hasn't quite matched the form he displayed at the tail end of 2012. Needless to say, the performance of Piris will be a prime factor in any success Roma has over the next two months.
Though he hasn't yet attained a Ranieri-level of tinkering, Andreazzoli hasn't been immune to shuffling his midfield rotation. Quick, raise your hand if you envisioned Simone Perrotta ever playing significant minutes for Roma again-I'll wait...anyone? Anyone? Bueller? The 35-year old World Cup winner, though not knocking the contributions he's made to club and country over the years, has been a bit of a surprise inclusion over the past month, logging 132 minutes over Roma's past three matches.Aside from DDR, Andreazzoli's midfield lineup has varied greatly; we've seen everything from the reappearance of Marquinho, to the resurgence of Panagiotis Tachtsidis, to the inexplicable exclusion of the possibly Bayern bound Miralem Pjanic.
Whether we're talking about the midfield or the attack, it's hard to glean any insight from last week's confounding display of calcio. However, with Pablo Osvaldo being (gasp!) suspended, one can't help but wonder if Mattia Destro, two week's fully fit, might make his first foray into Andreazzoli's squad. Though with the alchemy Andreazzoli has concocted with Francesco Totti, Erik Lamela and Alessandro Florenzi, it would require a larger shift in tactics to deploy the Destro(yer) alongside those three, though they didn't pay nearly €12m for Destro to ride the pine. So who knows, perhaps AA will utilize some variant of the diamond midfield, pairing Destro and Totti up top.
But at this point in this season and with this much on the line, it would behoove Andreazzoli to run out his most in-form players, regardless of their preferred roles.
So what about the lovely lads of Lazio?
The Biancocelesti are even with Inter on 50 points, though barring some Atalanta miracle, Inter will most likely push that gap to three by Monday night. Lazio, Monday's visiting team, broke their three game skid, narrowly edging out Catania 2-1 last week. It should come as no surprise that Lazio have been paced by Miroslav Klose and Hernanes, as the pair have accounted for 18 of the club's 39 goals this term.
Using raw numbers as the basis, Roma has bested Lazio in nearly every statistical category, save for goals allowed, of course. That Lazio are three points ahead of Roma can possibly be attributed to their record in one-goal matches, of which the Biancocelesti have won nine, compared to Roma's three. Unfortunately for Lazio, the past two months have not been so kind, as they've taken only seven points from eight matches, compared to Roma's 13 over that same span. Their Thursday encounter with Fenerbahce also produced a few minor injuries to Klose, Hernanes, Stefano Mauri and Ederson, so Lazio do not enter this derby under the best of circumstances.
As we mentioned last week, Roma has the tendency to play to the level of their opponents, toppling Juventus with relative ease and looking positively pusillanimous against Palermo. With both gods and clods remaining on the fixture list, where Roma falls on that spectrum remains to be seen-so whatever measure of sports psychology they need to implement to psyche themselves up for the next eight matches, let's hope it works.
With the fate of next season in the balance, there's no place for mediocrity on Monday night.