If Lazio hadn’t lost the last two league matches, the next edition of Derby della Capitale would be a clash between two teams pretty much in the title fight, but we are still left with an intense local rivalry that should light up the Stadio Olimpico as well as the entire city of Rome on Sunday afternoon.
AS Roma have been desperate to mount a serious title challenge ever since Rudi Garcia arrived in The Eternal City, but the club have twice failed to keep up with Juventus. However, with a big help from sporting director Walter Sabatini and his team, the French coach has put together a great side for the 2015/2016 season, and many believe that a 15-year wait for the league title could end this season. After a long search, AS Roma have finally found a formidable centre forward in Edin Dzeko, who may not be scoring too many goals, but definitely helps the team a great deal in the final third. On top of that, the Giallorossi have one of the world’s best playmakers in Miralem Pjanic, with fleet-footed Mohamed Salah, who was virtually snatched from Fiorentina in the summer, proving a genuine menace for the opposition defenders. Rudi Garcia unfortunately will not be able to count on the Bosnian star due to his suspension, and no doubt he will be sorely missed, but we still believe that Roma can produce a solid showing even without Pjanic running the show. The Giallorossi recovered well from the costly defeat to Inter Milan to defeat Bayer Leverkusen in midweek, and they will be very motivated to see off Lazio as well. Coach Rudi Garcia is sweating over the fitness of Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Florenzi, whilst Kevin Strootman, Francesco Totti and Douglas Maicon are definitely out.
SS Lazio have made some important steps over the last couple of years and last season’s third-place finish in Serie A was expected to provide much needed impetus for years to come. However, the Biancocelesti failed to get the most of the opportunity as they couldn’t reach the Champions League group phase, while numerous injury problems prevented Stefano Pioli’s side from showing all they’ve got on domestic stage. And while late summer signing Alessandro Matri did well to deputize up front at the time when both Miroslav Klose and Filip Djordjevic were injured, the same could not be said of centre-back Mauricio, who has utterly failed in an attempt to replace Stefan de Vrij at the back. With Wesley Hoedt still too inexperienced to perform at the level required in Serie A, Lazio have conceded way too many goals this term, 18 in 11 games to be exact. With the Oranje centre-back expected to miss the remainder of the season through a knee injury, the defensive issues are unlikely to disppear before the January transfer window. Even if Lazio did manage to beat Rosenborg in midweek, back to back league defeats to Atalanta and AC Milan are a major cause for concern ahead of the clash with AS Roma. Key midfielder Marco Parolo should be back to the side, while there are no other worries for coach Pioli at the moment.
AS Roma may be leaking too many goals, but they are more than capable of scoring a few in each game, which cannot be said of Lazio, who struggle both up front and at the back. And even if these games are often too hard to call, we are siding with the Giallorossi this time out.
Verdict: Home win
Best Odds: 1/1
Bookmaker: William Hill