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Previewing the Derby della Capitale With Nick Dianni of Kicks & Picks Podcast

Nick joins us to give his insight on the Biancoceleste ahead of Sunday’s big match.

AS Roma v SS Lazio - Serie A Photo by Danilo Di Giovanni/Getty Images

The Derby della Capitale is always one of, if not the most anticipated, matches in the Romaverse every season. And one of the most heated rivalries on the peninsula turns neighbor against neighbor and brother against brother. In my case, it turns me against the best man in my wedding. My buddy Nick of the Kicks and Picks podcast is a Laziale, and while the derby may be friendly between the two of us, it does provide bragging rights for months at a time.

Luckily enough for us, Nick is kind enough to provide us with some of his insight on Lazio as we prep for the Rome Derby. Nick already joined me on the latest episode of Across the Romaverse earlier this week. And we’re following up with this supplemental written form Q&A. We hope you enjoy this look at the Biancoceleste from behind enemy lines, and be sure to catch the full conversation on the podcast.

When we spoke on Across the Romaverse just a few days ago, both Roma and Lazio had Europa League matches on Thursday where both needed a result. Now that the dust has settled, Roma found a way to progress with a comeback victory over Ludogorets at the Olimpico, while Lazio fell at Feyernoord and was relegated to the Conference League. How much do you think that affects the two sides entering Sunday’s Derby?

It’s certainly not ideal. From a Lazio perspective, it has to be the worst time possible to face Roma. Going down to Salernitana and then Feyenoord has to be considered unexpected. Doing it with only 1 goal in two games is a recipe for disaster going forward. Meanwhile, Roma will be THRILLED Zaniolo, and Pellegrini looked the part mid-week. Trending in opposite directions, I’m afraid.

Building on Lazio being eliminated and dropped down to the ECL, the team’s management recently called it a competition for losers like Roma, and manager Maurizio Sarri said if he was the owner, he wouldn’t even play in the competition. What do you make of that mentality from the club brass? How do you think that will affect the players when they eventually have ECL matches? Should Lazio try to win that tournament the way Roma did last season?

I don’t think there’s a blog long enough to get me started on the team’s management. I’m a little more shocked at the comments from Sarri. I do honestly think this will all blow over by then, and they will go in trying to get as far as possible. I would love for them to win it so EVERYONE can shut up about it being a fake competition - any fan of Lazio / Napoli / whoever would have been bragging had it been them lifting the trophy and not Roma.

Before the season started, what were your minimum objectives for Lazio in Sarri’s second season? How much has that changed, if at all, after the EL elimination?

I think realistic objectives have to be the same as they usually are. Make a push for top 4 and land in Europe. Unfortunately, the team hasn’t swung for the fences in the same way some of our rivals have (I’m thinking Tammy, Osimhen, Dybala, Lukaku coming back, etc.), so it’s unrealistic to expect to be better than we ultimately have been over the last several years. There have been some bright spots - Provadel and Vecino this year, Zaccagni and Lazzari as well, but I guess it’s been more about keeping Immobile and SMS rather than building around them in a more meaningful way. So nothing has changed - fighting Roma for 4th at best, Conference League at worst.

Moving to Sunday’s match, both sides will be missing some key players with the absences of Immobile and Milinkovic-Savic for Lazio and Dybala and Spinazzola for Roma. How do those absences change the match? And who needs to step up in their absences for both sides to get the three points?

So let me get this out of the way. ALL TEAMS deal with injuries and suspensions throughout the year. Juve springs to mind. But for teams like ours, it’s just a little more amplified, and this has been my issue with Lazio’s mercato more than anything - they have 0 viable backup for Ciro. SMS is a big blow, but it can be overcome. Where are the goals coming from? The 4 players you mentioned really means some of the fantasy of this match will be lacking compared to years past. I think this game starts off a little slow and teams will try and not to make mistakes as they feel each other out. The two I’m looking at will be Zaccagni for Lazio (on a great run of form) and Pellegrini for Roma. Hope I’m wrong (for Roma that is).

What worries you the most about Roma coming into this match? Conversely, where do you think Lazio could give Roma issues?

Honestly, the fact that they haven’t yet hit their peak. We’re neck and neck in the standings, and ANYTHING can happen in a derby, but it feels like this Roma side has so much more runway. Tammy isn’t going to miss the net forever. Also set pieces - Pellegrini has been exceptional and Lazio is going to have to focus on that. Lazio will have to play as they have all year defensively and make decisive moves going forward. They still have the quality - but can they punish Roma and force mistakes from their defensive minded players?

Lastly, the podcast we co-host, along with Scott, Kicks & Picks, focuses on the betting side of European football. What do you make of the lines for this match? Any props you like? Any betting advice you have for a heated match like this one tends to be?

Roma is almost a 3 to 1 favorite in this match, and honestly I think that’s fair. Normally in a derby game the numbers are a little closer to a toss up, but with the form of both sides and the absence of Ciro and SMS, Roma has to have the edge. They are going off at even money at the time of this writing - so a bet on Roma to win will pay out the same as your wager. The other interesting one is the totals - over 2.5 goals is also a toss up at (-110). In previous editions of the Derby I’d expect this number to be a lot higher. It all speaks to what I’ve said above in that the books are expecting less goals than we are used to.

Usually in a derby match I favor the underdog from a betting point of view. Heated match and anything can happen. One kick, one mistake, one referee decision. This match doesn’t feel that way to me. A few other things to always look at who is the home team (doesn’t apply as much here), that edge can’t always be measured. The referee and his record - does that lend itself to possible expulsions, does he let things go. Has he used VAR? Big players show up in big moments - I think a guy like Harry Kane for instance always shows up when Tottenham is playing City/Liverpool/Chelsea etc. Lastly, I’d take a look at yellow cards or total bookings. Tensions run higher in the Derby and I favor the over if the number is right.

Personally I’m placing two bets for this game. The first is Lazio team total for corners - over 3.5. That means Lazio will have to get 4 or more corners to win this bet, which I am fully expecting. The other is total bookings (cards). Going for the total in the match (doesn’t matter which team) and that’s at 6.5. So a combo of 7+ yellows/reds from both sides get us there. Lazio is going to have to be gritty in this one, so the higher than normal number doesn’t scare me. Normally I look for this number to be around 3.5 or 4.5 for any given match.

We broke this game down with additional betting thoughts on the preview (if you haven’t listened already) and on Kicks and Picks (link below). Give it a listen if you are looking to place any bets on this game. Also, please follow @kickpickspod on twitter—we do this week in and week out for Serie A and more. If anyone has any questions on betting this game or any others, please reach out!