AS Roma will face rivals Lazio in Serie A this weekend. The match will see Paulo Fonseca take charge of the Giallorossi for the penultimate time, with Jose Mourinho confirmed to take over from next season. Roma can’t mathematically surpass Lazio any longer, but they can provide a serious blow to their rivals’ bid to qualify for the Champions League.
The eternal city of Rome deserves an eternal rivalry. For as long as one can remember, Roma and Lazio have been intertwined in such a rivalry splitting the city of Rome into two factions – one red and one blue. Both the clubs have seen better days, albeit it has been decades since they reigned over Italy. When they meet on the penultimate matchday of the 2020/21 Serie A season, both teams will be looking to qualify for Europe.
Mathematically, Lazio are out of Roma’s reach. Simone Inzaghi’s men ensured of that with a win over Parma midweek. At the same time, Roma lost their league match against champions Inter Milan, thus making the gap between themselves and their rivals insurmountable. Those couple of results meant that Roma were eliminated from the race to qualify for the Europa League via the traditional route. The Giallorossi – who reached the semi-finals of that competition this season – now risk falling a division further and into the newly constructed Europa Conference League.
However, Roma aren’t ensured of a spot in Europe’s third tier yet. Sassuolo are hot on their tails, with just two points separating the pair. The Neroverdi themselves lost midweek against Juventus and were unable to take advantage of Roma’s slip-up. They could be granted another opportunity to do so, should Paulo Fonseca’s side lose to their rivals.
For Lazio, there is a much greater prize on the horizon. The Biancocelesti have already secured a place in the Europa League but are aiming for a spot one step further. They are six points adrift of fourth-placed Napoli, albeit with a game in hand. Finishing in the top four will be difficult from this point, but it is not out of the picture yet. A loss against Roma, however, will likely eliminate them from the running.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan endured a torrid time in England following his big move to Manchester United. Having no use for him, Mourinho sanctioned a move to Arsenal, where again the Armenian failed to live up to his early promise. A move to Roma last season brought out the best in him, and the club decided to sign him permanently. The attacker has certainly rewarded the club’s faith in him by scoring 11 league goals and providing 11 assists.
Roma have lately developed the habit of loaning in players who find themselves surplus to requirements at other big clubs and subsequently getting the best out of them. Borja Mayoral is an example of the process, with the Spaniard currently enjoying his time in Rome on loan from Real Madrid. The young striker displaced Edin Dzeko from the first team and contributed with 17 goals across all competitions. His ten strikes in the league make him Roma’s second-highest goalscorer after Mkhitaryan.
Unlike Roma, Lazio don’t have to rely on goals from all areas. Hitman Ciro Immobile gets the job done himself on most occasions. The Italian is Lazio’s leading scorer in the league – and across all competitions – this season. He has scored 20 times in Serie A and has seven assists to his name. Those numbers make him the Biancocelesti’s highest league scorer and second-highest assist provider.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’ big move never materialized. As such, he still finds himself pulling strings in the Laziali midfield – much to the delight of his club! The Serbian is Lazio’s top assist provider in the league this season, with ten to his name. He regularly contributes with goals, too and has scored eight times in the competition. It is still not too late for him to secure a move to an even bigger club, and should he continue to play like this. It appears to be only a matter of time before he does.
Neither Roma nor Lazio are in the best of forms. The Giallorossi have lost three of their last five matches, while the Biancocelesti have lost two. As such, the pair finds themselves in a race to qualify for Europe.
Lazio have already secured some European football for the subsequent season by qualifying for the Europa League. However, Simone Inzaghi’s men are aiming higher, with a spot in the Champions League still up for grabs. Unluckily for them, their destiny is not in their own hands. They could miss out on a top-four spot even if they win three out of their three remaining matches.
For Roma, the goal at this point in the season is not to fall further behind. Should they remain seventh after the remaining two matches, they will make it to the Europa Conference League. However, a slip-up might prove to be costly, with Sassuolo right behind them. As such, their aim for the upcoming match against Lazio will be twofold – increase the gap between themselves and Sassuolo while ensuring their rivals miss out on UCL. A win could ensure both, but that is easier said than done. Roma are in trouble, and Lazio should be able to take advantage of it.