As rivalries go, there are few bigger ones than the Derby della Capitale.
Arguably the fiercest city derby in the country, the Rome derby is also one of the most hotly contested matches in Europe.
Until a couple of days ago it seemed the first meeting between Rome’s greatest sides – Roma and Lazio – would be a one-sided affair with Roma struggling to hit top gear and Lazio going on a full-throttle stretch, but the midweek Serie A round set the tone right for Saturday’s encounter.
Win-less since the opening day of the season and their 1-0 victory at Torino, Giallorossi lost three matches – including the Champions League opener at Santiago Bernabeu – and were held to a frustrating 2-2 stalemate against Chievo. With an axe hanging over manager Eusebio Di Francesco’s neck, Roma needed an instant response and that’s exactly what their fans got.
A comprehensive 4-0 triumph over lowly Frosinone on Wednesday night was a demonstration of power and a statement of intent from a side that is bursting with talent and quality. Cengiz Under put Roma on the right track with a lovely solo goal after only 90 seconds of play, while Giallorossi were three up by the 35th minute thanks to goals from Javier Pastore and Stephan El Shaarawy.
Strolling to victory during the second period, Eusebio Di Francesco’s men got their fourth just before the end, when Aleksandar Kolarov capped another brilliant performance with a thumping goal. The debutant full-back Luca Pellegrini provided the assist for the Serbia captain after a brilliant run.
Aleksandar Kolarov continues to enjoy his Indian summer in Italy following a Serie A season that saw him become Roma’s best acquisition in the 2017/18 campaign. The seasoned left-back is adding much-needed experience to Roma’s youthful side and is getting plenty of love from the fans – even when things don’t go their way which was the case against Real Madrid in the Champions League.
Giallorossi suffered a frustrating defeat but it was Kolarov who topped the charts with Kostas Manolas and got his share of supporters’ love along the way. Just have a look at the picture above.
As far as his numbers go, the Serbia international was in full control of the left flank, contributing strongly both in defence and in the attack. Toggle the ‘only important actions’ button to see his full contribution at Santiago Bernabeu.
Regardless of his fine displays, Giallorossi find themselves in the eye of the hurricane following a string of underwhelming performances and results that brought the ire of the Roma faithful. A win over city rivals and arch-enemies Lazio would provide Di Francesco’s charges with a valuable morale boost and bring them to a single-point difference behind Biancocelesti.
Getting three points against the in-form Lazio will be easier said than done, however, given the close-to-perfect start of the season Simone Inzaghi’s men have had. Having nearly missed out on the Champions League spot last term, Lazio are determined to clinch the top-four spot and have every right to hope so following a strong start to 2018/19.
Back-to-back defeats to league contenders Napoli and Juventus at the very beginning of the season did little to throw Biancocelesti off the track. Inzaghi’s men responded with five successive victories – including a 2-1 victory over Apollon in the Europa League – and will have the 23-year-old Serbia starlet Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (alongside Ciro Immobile) to thank for the fact they sit in third ahead of the big match.
The flamboyant midfielder emerged as one of the most sought-after footballers last summer and was heavily linked with Europe’s biggest sides throughout the transfer window despite his somewhat unimpressive World Cup appearance with Serbia.
The Sergeant – as they call him in Rome – was played out of position with Mladen Krstajic failing to fully utilize his attacking ability. The abundance of red spots in Twelve’s chart above is enough to suggest the Lazio star was mainly assigned with defensive duties which, in the end, hampered his contribution.
Putting the tournament behind him, Milinkovic-Savic looks a new man. Lazio’s reluctance to lower their €100 million evaluation is paying dividends at the moment as the Serbian stayed put and is now days away from signing a new deal with the club.
One could call me biased for highlighting my compatriots in this Derby della Capitale analysis but both Aleksandar Kolarov and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic did more than enough to establish themselves as huge stars in their respective teams during the past year.
I expect both of them to stand out from the crowd and lead way in what is surely going to be a cracking Derby della Capitale – with goals at both ends.