This coming Monday, Rome and Italy will come to stand still, the fiercest derby in Serie A will take place. A derby that in a lot of circumstances is more important than the entire season. A derby that produces moments that remain forever ingrained in Calcio fans. From the salutes of DiCanio, to Totti displaying “Vi ho purgato ancora”, Lulic entering the Lazio folklore by scoring the winner in Coppa Italia final derby and very recently Totti showing that an old dog can be taught new tricks and taking a selfie with the fans after a brace.
On Monday, pride and ego will be important but the fight between the 2nd and 3rd placed teams would also be financially driven. Champions League qualification is at stake and with Napoli hot on the heels of the Roman sides, none of the can afford to slip up. With both teams going through a topsy turvy recent few weeks, a lot can decide the game. According to me the following 3 key battles will decide the game.
1.Totti vs De Vrij
Er Pupone always reserves his best for the neighbours. As witnessed earlier in the year, Il Capitano rolled back the years with a brace and earned Roma a draw. Totti’s advancing years have rendered his threat to a lesser level but it would be massive risk to write him off. He’s a man for big moments and as a Roman it doesn’t get any bigger than the derby.
Lazio this season have been built on the rock named Stefan De Vrij. The 21 year-old defender acquired for AZ Alkmaar has been beast in the center of defence for Le Aquile as they have gone on to just concede 34 goals in the league, 3rd lowest behind Roma and Juventus. The Dutch defender will have to be at his best to ensure Roma don’t have a good day.
2.Candreva & Parolo vs Nainggolan & De Rossi
Keeping out Pjanic and Mauri is difficult both both midfield duos are as of now important than the mentioned midfielders. Parolo will be looking to set the tempo from the middle of the park while the roaming Candreva aims to cause damage to the wings. Both midfielders have been supremely important for Le Aquile. Parolo has been a consistent goal scoring threat as shown by his return of 9 goals in 32 league appearances and has lifted the goal scoring burden off Candreva who has happily taken over the playmaking duties and has a registered 8 assists while averaging 1.6 key passes per game.
On the other side, derby veteran De Rossi brings his best performances against the Biancocelesti. It always looks like the passion of the fans is combined together and personified in the bearded destroyer. His job will be to keep the opponent midfield quiet, which is a hard ask for anyone but will be key to winning the tie. As for ‘Ninja’, for a massive chunk of the season it has seemed like him and Manolas have kept Roma’s season from completely derailing. The Belgian international has been ever present presence in the middle of the park covering every inch of blade and contributing on both sides of the field.
3.Anderson vs Manolas
Lazio’s wonder boy and the main reason behind their brilliant season, Felipe Anderson. The brazilian has been the focal point of the attack and has contributed to 17 goals( 10 goals & 7 assists). His pace and dribbling can be a thorn in any defence’s side and coupled with his long distance shooting, he is easily one of the biggest threats in Serie A right now. His individual ability is more than capable to swing the tie in Lazio’s favor.
Roma’s season has been kept in shape by the Greek stalwart, Manolas. The center back has adapted to Serie A brilliantly in his first season. With most of his defensive teammates either injured or having the worst seasons in recent memories, the 23-year old has single handedly shouldered the responsibility of keeping things tight at the back. Not one to mince his words, Manolas has marshalled his defence well and would be looking to keep a potent Lazio attack quiet.