Every season before the next edition of the derby, I like to check in with someone who supports and follows our rivals on a week-to-week basis to get a pulse on Lazio. So often, I feel that our view of calcio through Giallorossi tinted glasses can affect the way we view the other club that plays in the Stadio Olimpico. With that in mind, I brought in my buddy and co-host on the Kicks and Picks Podcast, Nick Dianni, to fill us in on all things Biancoceleste before Sunday’s Derby della Capitale.
Let’s talk about the top of Serie A and, specifically, the teams competing for Champions League places. Napoli aside, everyone from places 2-6 has struggled, so what do you make of the struggles of Lazio, Roma, Inter, Milan, and Atalanta?
And then, on the flip side, how have Italian teams been able to fare so well in UEFA competitions?
Honestly, Steve, I can’t remember anything like the inconsistency we’ve seen over the last two seasons. Top teams just can’t seem to put it together week in and week out. We saw it last year up until the Milan Derby, and it’s even more profound this year. The short answer is all teams have players who are underperforming.
The long answer is this year’s condensed schedule, multiple competitions for all, the World Cup, etc, has really shown how thin our league really is - the spending just isn’t there to build a squad that can compete game in and game out. One or two injuries or a bad patch of form, and the wheels feel like they can come off at any time.
Everything that has gone wrong in our team’s losses to the Spezia’s and Cremonese’s of the world seems to be working in Europe - and it shows that good old-fashioned Italian coaching still has a place in football. Let’s hope it continues.
Lazio is 3rd in Serie A but was relegated from the Europa League and eliminated this week from the Conference League and fell to Juve in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals. How would you rate Lazio’s season so far?
All things considered (and we spoke about this last derby) - successful. No reason at all this team should be competing for top 4, and in all reality they could make a case for 2nd. If you told me Immobile would miss months, SMS would be average and we’d be starting Pedro and Anderson game in and game out, I’d have expected 7th or 8th place. That being said, Europe has been nothing short of a disaster. Sarri seemed to not care, or tried to make a point that the reinforcements still need to come - but either way it makes the team look like a joke, especially when every other squad has excelled. The Coppa is another massive failure considering how poorly Juve was playing at the time, and the ultimate path to the final. Sarri seems to get as much as he can out of what little he has, but it doesn’t seem likely he’ll stay long term, or ever win a trophy with this club.
From an outside view, what are your thoughts on Roma under Jose Mourinho this season?
Underwhelming. But as stated above, good enough to make Champions League. I fully expect Roma to take a top 4 spot - even though no one wants it. I think there have been players (especially young ones) who have taken unexpected steps up under Jose, but two in particular who have dropped off. Tammy and Pellegrini. Shocked at how poor both have been, and if either can turn it on in the last 2 months of the season, second place isn’t out of the question. Dybala has single handedly won this team point after point.
The first time these sides met back in November, Lazio won 1-0 in a match where both sides were missing key players, including Ciro Immobile, who will likely miss this weekend as well. With Lazio's other starts set to play, will their presence make for a more entertaining match?
I sure hope so - that wasn’t the most entertaining game last time around! Something I never ever would have said at the start of the year - both sides have played surprisingly good D. Casale/Romagnoli + Provadel have been the brightest spots for Lazio, and Smalling and Co. really have come into their own on your side. Don’t know that we’re in for a 3-2 thriller this time out either, but I think we can hope for something better than terror ball like we saw last game.
Who needs this match more and why?
Push. If Lazio are to have ANY hope of top 4 - they need 3 here. Roma will feel more satisfied with 1. Also as you pointed out, Lazio have absolutely nothing else to play for, so they are all-in on this match.
What worries you the most heading into this match about Roma? Conversely, where do you think Lazio can cause Roma problems?
Dybala. He’s the x-factor. Going to need to be contained by our midfielders and the boys have not always been up to task this year. Also, I really worry about the wings, we aren’t known for our defensive strength out there (looking at you Hysaj) - and if Spina continues his fine form Lazzari will be out of his element. Lazio is going to need a game of the season from its MF. SMS, Cataldi, Alberto or Vecino - whoever is called upon is going to need to give a full 90 and create chances any way they can.
Okay, now let’s move to your area of expertise on Kicks and Picks–the betting angle. Looking at the lines for this match, what jumps out at you? Any favorite bets for this match?
This match is a complete toss up at the time of writing this - Lazio slight moneyline favorite at (+170) with Roma at (+175). Typically I always take an underdog in this spot in a derby, but these odds are even. Pick your favorite team and enjoy. The under (2.5 goals) is as big of a favorite for the derby as I can remember, sitting at (-195). That’s nuts. I think an under is likely but would advise betting it at that price. Goalscorers are where the value is in this one. Because of the aforementioned under odds, there’s a premium price on goalscorers. Dybala (+230), Tammy (+250), Zaccagni/Pedro/Anderson (+280) are all great prices. Even SMS and Pellegrini are sitting at (+350). Pick one or two and make some money. Great betting preview featured on this week’s episode so be sure to check it out wherever you listen to your podcasts!
Thanks to Nick for taking the time to give us his Lazio insight. If you don’t follow him or the show yet, you can follow both on Twitter: @NickDianni & @KicksPicksPod.
If you haven’t listened to Nick and me on the pod yet, we’d love for you to give us a try. We talk all things Serie A, Premier League Champions League, and other European action with our other co-host, Scott. Plus, if you like to wager on the matches at all, we give our 10 best bets every weekend of the season from across Europe.