It’s nearly derby day in the Eternal City, and you know what that means: managers sparring with each other through press conferences, players hoping to undo weeks of poor form through one shining moment, and a Stadio Olimpico that will undoubtedly be packed to the gills. Call it a provincial mindset all you want, but the Derby Della Capitale will always hold a special significance for Giallorossi fans, and for good reason: it is arguably the most intense derby in Italy if not Europe.
This match will always mean something, even if both sides are fighting against relegation with no hope of gaining anything significant from the season. Tomorrow’s match means far more than that, however, because Lazio and Roma are both trying to continue a rise up the table following similarly horrid starts to the season. Roma have climbed up to seventh place in Serie A through consistent performance (Inter loss notwithstanding), while Lazio are only one point behind them (but in tenth place). A win for either side will put them much more comfortably in the conversation for European qualification through the league, which is a must for both José Mourinho and Maurizio Sarri if they wish to keep their jobs following this season.
Lazio vs. Roma: November 12th. 18:00 CET/12:00 EST. Stadio Olimpico, Roma
Thankfully for Roma fans, the side is slowly but surely returning to full strength; while not every player will be back in the squad for the Derby, key players, including Lorenzo Pellegrini, will at least be available off the bench. These matches never have anything to do with form; they are always about passion first. That’s how Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa became a hero in Rome (at least for a day)—the same with Juan Manuel Iturbe. Let’s hope that another player can join those two as Derby Day heroes (though maybe with a more successful career in the long term than either player).
What To Watch For
Can Pellegrini Be a Super-Sub?
As I mentioned, the rumor mill indicates that Roma captain Lorenzo Pellegrini will finally return to the pitch after sustaining a muscular injury nearly a month ago. Corriere Dello Sport suggests that while he’s not ready to play the full ninety, he will be at José Mourinho’s disposal as a substitute, promising an extra dose of creativity and class in the midfield for the last thirty or forty minutes of this match.
Would I rather have Pellegrini 100% healthy going into this critical match? Of course. Yet I have hope that Pellegrini can make a serious impact tomorrow even as a substitute; Roma captains, particularly those born in Rome, always seem to discover another gear for the Derby Della Capitale, and considering the good run the club has gone on during Pellegrini’s absence from the pitch, you have to imagine that Lolo will want to prove that he is still critical to Roma’s long-term success the moment he re-enters the pitch.
Will Romelu Lukaku’s Good Form Continue?
While Lorenzo Pellegrini has been healing off the pitch, Romelu Lukaku has been on fire on it. The Belgian international has had an incredible start to his time in a Giallorossi kit, scoring nine goals across all competitions and providing a unique balance of strength and technique that Roma has been missing from its attacking corps. He’s had the best start to a Roma career as a striker I can remember, barring Tammy Abraham, and long may it continue.
There have been cracks that emerge here and there, namely his inability to get any significant shots on target in his return to the San Siro facing Inter, which brings us to tomorrow’s match. While Roma has both Dybala and Lukaku to work with, the Giallorossi’s hopes will certainly live and die by their performances in the derby. Lazio’s defense isn’t Inter’s by any stretch of the imagination, but players like Alessio Romagnoli and Nicolo Casale could still rise to the occasion and give Lukaku headaches. If he can muscle past them like he muscled past Lecce’s defending corps, then the Giallorossi have nothing to worry about. Let’s hope that’s the case, and Roma finds itself that much closer to a Champions League spot on Monday.