This coming week sees the mother of all derby weekends across Europe with the Manchester, Barcelona, one encapsulating a whole country – the Derby d’Italia – and two huge London versions all being contested. In fact, all we need are our equine friends to be doing their thing at Epsom Racecourse and we would have a full roster.
But arguably the most contentious of them all will be played out in the Italian capital as Lazio take on arch-rivals AS Roma at the Stadio Olimpico with the match being of great importance to both clubs.
Lazio have struggled this season at the wrong end of the Serie A table but a recent run of good form has seen them hoist themselves out of the relegation zone. Their task has been helped by Bologna’s implosion with the club losing their last five league matches including a 3-2 reverse at home to the Biancocelesti last weekend.
Roma, meanwhile, have been on the sort of run that most teams can only dream about, having gone unbeaten in the league since the end of October.
Manager Claudio Ranieri has overseen this transformation since he replaced Luciano Spalletti, whose reign ended with the Giallorossi more concerned about going down than with winning the .
The run reached its crescendo with the 2-1 win against Inter Milan on March 27 which saw them close the gap to the Nerazzurri at the top of the table and eventually usurp them the following week.
With so much to play for the match will be as hot on the pitch as it traditionally is in the stands with each club drawing their fan base from opposing faiths and ideologies.
Lazio are seen as the Catholic team in the region with their ‘ultras’ regularly aligning themselves with far-right politics. On the other side of the fence are the Roma fans that often emanate from the Jewish community and have historically been influenced by left-wing thinking.
Events in the Eternal City will be watched eagerly by Nerazzurri manager Jose Mourinho though his team has a rather tricky encounter to negotiate themselves.
Inter face Juventus on Friday night in a match billed as the ‘Derby of Italy’ (‘Derby d’Italia’) as it pits two of the countries biggest names together with the marketing men conveniently forgetting about the existence of seven-time European Cup winners, AC Milan.
Mourinho’s men have been praised to the hilt for weaving a path to the Champions League semi-finals but their league form has taken a hit as a result. They have recorded as many defeats as wins (two) in their last seven Serie A matches and have seen a nine point lead evaporate.
Juventus have had troubles of their own, losing three of their last five matches with each of those defeats coming away from home. That kind of form does not bode well for Alberto Zaccheroni’s side though the visceral fervour inside the San Siro and the recent travails of their hosts might spur them on to a good performance.
Away from the two undeniable highlights of the Italian sporting weekend there is another fascinating fixture as Sampdoria face AC Milan. The Rossoneri are not totally out of the title race but, sitting five points off the top, they need to win all their remaining fixtures to stay in with a chance.
That will be easier said than done with the likes of Palermo, Fiorentina, and Juventus to face before season’s end after they face Sampdoria. But the Genoa side have ambitions of their own as they currently find themselves just outside the Champions League places on goal difference only. They will not be lacking for motivation.
This weekend could have a huge bearing on the final outcome of Serie A and if you’re travelling to Italy over the next few days you will be glad to know that tickets are still available for these decisive clashes at tixdaq.com.