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Fear And Fireworks: What History Tells Us About The Rome Derby

By: Stefano Faccendini

Despite being the most intense of Italian derbies, the Eternal City Serie A clash usually ends up with Roma and Lazio sharing the spoils.

In an emotionally fraught fixture, the battle for pride and city supremacy have always been the two biggest influencing factors on the tie, which has led to a “must not lose” mentality setting in. That is born out in the historical results of the fixture with the draw being the most common result (60 draws, 54 Roma wins, 38 Lazio wins).

At no period was this fear more apparent than between 1984/85 and 1993/94 where the two sides shared 12 draws and one 1-0 win apiece, in a series of derbies that saw no more than two goals scored in any of the ties. Since then, the ambitions and fortunes of both sides have changed, and the arrival of more open-minded managers, less inclined to succumb to the city environment, has encouraged the teams to play to win rather than trying not to lose.

What has not changed has been the intensity, the drama and the controversies. Since 1994/95 this fixture has seen 34 red cards, more than any other Serie A encounter. In fact, across Europe’s top five leagues it is the most ill-disciplined tie this century. Drama is never far away: since 2004/05 no other Italian top-flight fixture has seen more penalties awarded (18).

Last season was the first time the two clubs shared the spoils in both encounters in the league since 2002/03 and both games were rich in chances.  Back in August 2019, Lazio registered twice the number of shots as their city rivals while in the return fixture, Roma were unlucky not to get the three points after mustering 22 attempts compared to the Biancocelesti’s six.

Both teams come into their first-ever Friday night Rome derby in good form. Lazio have only lost once in their last six (against leaders AC Milan) while Roma have been beaten just once in the last eight, against Atalanta.

Following the retirement of Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi and with Alessandro Florenzi on loan to PSG, Roma approach the derby for the first time in years without a homegrown leader. Of the current squad, captain Edin Dzeko boasts the most “Derby Della Capitale” appearances (10), followed by Federico Fazio with seven and Juan Jesus with five (with both defenders unlikely to feature in the starting lineup). Lorenzo Pellegrini, possible heir of the captaincy, will play his fifth. On the Lazio side, three players have made more than ten derby appearances, Stefan Radu (17), Senad Lulic (15) and Marco Parolo (12).

Edin Dzeko currently sits third in Roma’s all-time top scorer charts behind Francesco Totti and Roberto Pruzzo after quietly amassing 113 goals in all competitions. If his numbers have been impressive since his arrival in Serie A, the ones pumped out by Ciro Immobile are simply extraordinary. The ex-Dortmund forward has netted 141 times in all competitions since joining Lazio in 2016. Both have been their side’s top scorer across the last four seasons and will arguably be the main hopes for both sets of fans coming Friday night.

In this campaign, Immobile has been in clinical form, his 11 goals coming from an Expected Goals Value of 7.6.

While the two strikers represent both team’s main threats, it’s fair to say the men in form at the moment are Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. The Armenian, Roma’s top scorer with eight goals, leads the assists chart with eight and the Serbian has provided five so far this season.

 

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the 153rd Rome derby in Serie A will miss what is the most integral part to it, the fans. Let’s hope the two teams will play with more freedom and less anxiety without the pressure of the baying crowd.


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