Thanks to Juventus' B team (The Not Quite As Old Lady), a bit of the drama has been removed from Monday's Derby della Capitale, as Napoli's 3-1 defeat to Juve's reserves guaranteed Roma will fall no further than third place, no matter how the next two weeks play out. Despite that helping hand from Juve, Roma still has a chance to secure second place and direct qualification into the Champions League should they defeat Lazio in Monday Night Calcio.
So, while the 150th edition of the Derby della Capitale doesn't quite have the same panache as the Coppa Italia finale we endured two years ago, with the easier path to Europe on the line, we can expect this one to be as fast and furious as the previous 149.
So, how will Roma walk away with three points? Let's take a quick look.
January 11, 2015: Roma 2, Lazio 2
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You don't really need me to remind you about this one, right? Taking the pitch to more pageantry than usual, the stage was set for another classic match. Unfortunately, in typical Roma fashion, Rudi Garcia's men came out of the gate snoring rather than snarling, falling behind 2-0 after only 30 minutes.
But then you know what happened, what always happens in these situations? Francesco Totti turned in a performance (and a celebration) for the ages, grabbing two goals in the span of 16 minutes to steal two points from Lazio. The second, selfie-infused goal, was truly one for the record books. The site of a 38-year-old man flying through the air and deftly picking the ball out of the air with his outstretched right foot might be the lasting image of Totti.
While it's always a joy to watch Totti rescue Roma, let's hope it doesn't come to that this time around.
For two sides separated by only one point, you'd expect their statistical records to be near mirror images, but one look at the table dispels that myth. Lazio's attack has been far, far more proficient than Roma's this season, outscoring the Giallorossi by 15 goals, while conceding only six more than Rudi Garcia's men. On the balance, Roma has managed a +23 goal differential, third best in the league, but still nine behind second place Lazio.
And while the two sides are generally in the top ten in most statistical categories, here is where you should drop to your knees and thank god for that stretch of draws. We tend to forget, given how horrible it was to endure that run of mediocrity, but Roma has only lost five times this season, which is second only to Juventus. Meanwhile, Lazio has come up on the short end a full ten times this season. So, if we're looking for the real dividing line between the two sides of the Eternal City, look no further than Roma's 13 draws this season.
In terms of who's lining up for Roma tomorrow, the early reports indicate a frontline of Totti, Juan Iturbe and Victor Ibarbo, buttressed by the sturdy midfield of Daniele De Rossi, Radja Nainggolan and Miralem Pjanic. In the rearguard, look for two Italians and two Greeks, Alessandro Florenzi and Davide Astori on the right, Kostas Manolas and Jose Cholebas on the left.
As far as who we have to keep our eyes on, the song remains the same: Miroslave Klose, Felipe Anderson, Stefano Mauri and Antonio Candreva. Anderson, Klose and Candreva have accounted for 31 goals and 22 assists this season. Like we said, Lazio's attack has been far more clinical this season.
When all is said and done, if Rudi Garcia can steer Roma to two-straight second place finishes and two consecutive Champions League berths, we have to consider this season a success; a disappointment for sure, but a success nonetheless.
However, there's still that pesky derby to play.