The Derby della Capitale is without doubt one of the largest fixtures in the Italian footballing calendar. It has even been described as the fiercest derby in Italy, eclipsing even the renowned Milan derby that pits the usually more successful AC Milan and Internazionale against each other. This April, an AS Roma team that appears to be rediscovering some of the form from the days when players like Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi were at their peak, faced against an SS Lazio team that is struggling mid-table. The encounter was all set to be a heated affair, with Lazio, who were playing at home, wishing to do one over on their rivals sitting far above them in the table; it was also to be Totti’s final Derby – in which both he and De Rossi started on the bench, underlining the sense of renewal at the club which is also planning a move to a new stadium – adding to the emotion of the occasion.
It was to be Roma who would take the lead early in the game, Stephan El Shaarawy heading in a cross by Lucas Digne, putting the visitors ahead after 14 minutes. After that, the game was to be mostly Roma’s, with Miralem Pjanic hitting the post and Radja Nainggolan just missing after a superb run that carved open the Lazio defence. The home team were limited to few opportunities, a direct free-kick from Lucas Biglia proving one of their best in the first half. Edin Dzeko, who was introduced after half time, extended the lead, converting a fine strike from Diego Perotti that deflected off the post.
However, Lazio were not to give up the tie easily, with Wesley Hoedt heading the ball against the post from a corner. Soon after, the team in sky-blue were to come agonisingly close again, thanks to another corner, Miroslav Klose heading the ball across only to see Marco Parolo’s effort pushed onto the bar by the fingertips of the goalkeeper. The pressure was to tell, however, Keita Balde skilfully working an opening for a cross, to which Klose was to beat both the keeper and defender to in the air, sending the ball across goal again to Parolo, who could do little else but score.
Lazio’s hope of a comeback was short-lived, however. Only minutes later, Alessandro Florenzi re-established a two-goal lead with a wonderful volley from outside the box. Perrotti nonchalantly slotted home the fourth soon after to make it 4-1. It was a fine Derby, the final scoreline masking a hotly contested match…
… In honour of the occasion, we’ve decided to put together a combined 11 of the best players, by position, currently plying their trade in the two main teams in the Italian capital.
In goal, we’ve opted for Wojciech Szczesny, who has enjoyed a solid season at AS Roma on loan from Arsenal, playing the majority of games and averaging 2.8 saves per game. In central defence we have Kostas Manolas, a physical Greek international defender who is left-footed, offering balance to a back line that also includes Dutch international Stefan De Vrij. At left-back, we have opted for Digne, also an international, for France, who is often considered one of the best young left backs in Europe. On the right, we have Florenzi, Roma’s third-choice captain and one of their outstanding performers this year.
This central midfield selection, we believe, is both extremely talented and well-balanced. Lazio man Biglia, an Argentine international, would play in the ‘anchor role’, providing defensive cover for Nainggolan and Pjanic, who both like to roam further forward. In this deep-lying position, he would also be able to use his excellent passing ability to spread the play and keep the ball moving. Roma’s Nainggolan, an adept box-to-box midfielder and Belgian international, would be allowed to venture forward, though would be required to do some defensive work, freeing Pjanic to get further up the field. The Bosnian has an outstanding record for Roma this season, scoring 11 goals and registering 11 assists in all competitions, making the midfielder the club’s second-top scorer. All three midfielders have a pass success rate of around 85% this season, with Biglia reaching 87.6%.
The man who occupies the top scorer spot at Roma also makes the team, in his usual position on the right wing. Mohamed Salah, a speedy Egyptian international, likes to cut inside onto his favoured left-foot and get shots away, a tactic which has helped the former Chelsea man register 13 goals in all competitions this season. He also has four assists. On the left, offering further balance, we have Lazio playmaker Felipe Anderson. The young Brazilian, who is adept with both feet and extremely quick, has managed nine goals and three assists in all competitions.
Up front we have none other than Dzeko. The former Manchester City player has the physicality and all-round game to play the lone-striker role. Dzeko, also a Bosnian, has enjoyed a solid season, scoring ten goals and registering six assists in all competitions for Roma.
This team has many talented attacking players with excellent passing ability, so this team would have an attacking mentality and utilise a mixed but short range of passing, allowing them to keep possession and wear down their opponent’s defences. With a number of quick, high-energy players in the squad, we would also favour a high pressing game aimed at winning the ball quickly in the opponent’s half. A quick and well-organised back line would allow this team to stay high up the field, complementing the pressing and possession game, with the offside trap then helping to prevent counter-attacks by the opposition.
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