By JUSTIN FERGUSON
Although bragging rights in the Italian capital would normally be enough reward for the winner of the fierce Lazio-Roma derby, a major domestic trophy and a spot in next season’s Europa league will also be on the line when the two sides meet in the Coppa Italia final this Sunday.
When the Serie A season wrapped up last Sunday, Roma and Lazio finished in sixth and seventh place in the league table—just a few points off the mark for automatic European qualification. The results were disappointing for both of these storied Italian powers, but they will have a chance to end their 2012-13 campaigns with a cup final victory and Europa League qualification over their hated rivals.
While you would think the majority of the Roma news this week would be focused on the club’s chance to be the first to reach double-digit Coppa Italia titles all-time, the new club crest unveiled earlier this week has sent shockwaves throughout the capital. Manager Aurelio Andreazzoli will surely have his mind on Sunday’s on-field product as rumors about his job security swirl around the Stadio Olimpico.
Andreazzoli’s appointment after Zdenek Zeman’s firing in February seemed to bring some life back into the 17-time Coppa finalists. American midfielder Michael Bradley and Roma have only lost twice since the former assistant was promoted to the head job, but a disappointing draw with last-place Pescara and a loss to bottom-half Chievo Verona did not help their European dreams.
While several starters are still questionable for the final, Roma will definitely welcome back captain Francesco Totti on Sunday. The Roma veteran has played in more Rome derbies than anyone else and is ranked third on the all-time rivalry goalscoring list. Totti missed Roma’s season-ending 2-1 win over Napoli for a red card picked up in the dying moments of a draw at AC Milan.
Lazio, on the other hand, will enter Sunday’s final with less momentum than their rivals. The seventh-place club was winless in seven of its last ten Serie A matches, and last Sunday’s 1-0 loss at Cagliari prevented Lazio from finishing above Roma. Lazio missed the presence of midfielder Hernanes in that match, and it is still undecided whether the Brazilian will be fit for Sunday’s final.
However, recent history is on the side of Lazio heading into the first-ever final between the two Roman clubs. Lazio won three straight derby matches before April’s 1-1 draw. Although they have less than half of Roma’s appearances in these finals, Lazio boast an incredible 5-1 record when the Coppa is on the line.
The last five matches between Lazio and Roma have had a combined eight red cards, so expect a no-holds-barred battle at their shared Olimpico home. While Roma seek to break their derby slump and an all-time Coppa Italia record, Lazio will want to end a disappointing 2013 on a high note.
And to make matters even more interesting, a major domestic trophy and European qualification await the winner in the 172nd edition of this fierce rivalry.
What do you think of the matchup? Excited to see Bradley play in a domestic cup final? Think Roma can break their winless streak against Lazio? See Lazio improving their already impressive record in Coppa Italia finals? What do you predict the final score will be?
Share your thoughts below.