“I’m not interested in these things – it’s up to the league’s governing body to deal with issues like that. I need to coach my side – I’ve always been a fair person and that’s important to me.”
That was the gentleman’s response given by Claudio Ranieri during Friday’s pre-match press conference when asked about an episode from his first Roma tenure, when Lazio served Inter a biscotto on match day 36 of the 2009-2010 season, which pretty much ensured Inter won the Scudetto over Roma by a mere two points. Lazio, despite its mid-table status that season, seemed like Roma’s best hope of getting some help in taking the top of the table from Inter. At least it seemed that way on paper.
However, with the Curva Nord all but telling the Biancocelesti to throw the game away to spite Roma, you could throw that proverbial paper in the trash. The players all but obliged the supporters’ request and put up little fight; Roma’s title hopes were dashed as Inter won out, and to this day the Giallorossi haven’t come as close to winning a title.
The coach of that Roma was Ranieri, of course. So, why would a reporter bring up something ten years in the past?
Well, we all love a good story line and there are some parallels between that biscotto almost a decade ago and this weekend as Lazio are set to host Atalanta. Roma currently trail La Dea by just one point for a Champions League spot with four matches remaining, and in theory this could be the toughest match remaining for the Bergameschi. Both Roma and Atalanta still have Juve to play as well, but one imagines the Bianconeri won’t have as much motivation with the title clinched.
The question on everyone’s mind, at least in Roma circles has to be: Will Lazio play to win on Sunday or will they throw the match to spite Roma yet again?
We will know the answer by the time Roma take the field at noon eastern on since the match in the capital will be played earlier. But I, for one, would hope that our Eternal City rivals won’t be baking any biscotti this weekend. It just wouldn’t make sense this time around.
For one, this version of Lazio has much more to play for than the ‘09-’10 team that was destined to finished mired in mid-table mediocrity. This time around, Lazio is sitting in eighth; just three points behind Roma in fifth and four behind Atalanta. Lazio still has a lot to play for. If they were to let Atalanta come to the Olimpico and leave with three points, the Biancocelesti would be all but throwing away their own European hopes.
Figuratively speaking, Lazio throwing this match would be cutting off their nose to spite their face; an action I’d be shocked to see. But then again this is Lazio and Roma we are referring to. Crazier things happen. Let’s just hope that Lazio is motivated enough by its own European ambitions to do Roma a favor even if its begrudgingly.
Sadly, it might be our best hope.