Lazio v Roma

Roma v Lazio Match Preview, scouting, and predictions


The Derby is always meaningful, but it’ll be particularly intriguing with two relatively new coaches at the helm and potentially noteworthy consequences on the standings.

  Serie A Week 31 – Saturday 5 April  2024 – Stadio Olimpico | Preview by Enrico Passarella



Daniele De Rossi has solved many issues, but he can’t do miracles. The solution to their depth problems will have to come from new signings, which won’t be easy since they have been in an FFP-related crunch for ages. Beating Lecce would have gone a long way in solidifying their fifth position. However, they are clearly different and much less threatening without Paulo Dybala and Lorenzo Pellegrini, especially considering the latest stellar version of the Italian midfielder.

Tommaso Baldanzi has been serviceable and peppy, and they’d be in an even worse spot if they hadn’t gone out of their way to sign him in January, but he doesn’t have the same gravitas is nowhere near the same scorer as the Argentine. The first game after the break is always a little weird, but, given the creative deficit, Houssem Aouar should have started over Edoardo Bove, although he didn’t shine after coming on and squandered a big chance.

While it’s somewhat understandable to struggle without two stars, a nice but far-from-formidable player like Stephan El Shaarawy should be easier to replace. Instead, his absence is very noticeable every time. Nicola Zalewski has gotten so used to playing as a wingback that his offensive skills have diminished, or at least have been re-oriented, and there’s a sizeable drop-off. The Pole prefers staying wide, while they need a slasher and somebody who can finish there, as he’s often overlooked by the defense. Since the tactical switch happened instantaneously, not adding a winger in January was a red herring. Even bringing back Ola Solbakken, who was sent to Japan after failing to leave a mark at Olympiacos, would have helped.

De Rossi will have a key decision on his hands without Evan N’Dicka, who has arguably been their best defender after AFCON since Gianluca Mancini hasn’t been his best self, probably affected by a lingering sports hernia. Dean Huijsen has chutzpah in spades but is also inexperienced and often tries to do too much with the ball on his feet. Chris Smalling returned from his latest injury in the past game. He has played so little this year that he’s hardly an option at this point. The call will be between the Juventus prodigy and Diego Llorente, who’s always sound but never spectacular.

The second order of business is to find a way to reignite Romelu Lukaku, who’s the only player who has been negatively affected by his arrival, even though the opposite should be true since they create more chances. Perhaps José Mourinho cuddled and prodded him better, and his firing affected his spirit, but there are also visible technical divergences. They play with more pace, space, and variety now, while he’s all too often sitting there shielding his defender, not always successfully, waiting for the ball with the back to the goal. His teammates more often than not can’t feed him properly because there’s too much traffic, or the action quickly goes to waste even if they do. While he’s not as explosive as earlier in his career, he’s no slouch and should better exploit his athleticism to tiptoe the offside trap and be more dynamic, and the ball will find him in better spots. The silver lining is that his paltry numbers make moving on from him a lot easier. Given their financial restrictions, it’d be mighty hard for their front office to find a way without sacrificing anybody or hurting the squad elsewhere. Unless he has a superb finish and rediscovers his smile, they shouldn’t even bother trying.

Even though the turnaround between the previous tilt and this one was shorter than usual, five days, they might have looked ahead at the Derby a little too much. It’s indeed a big deal, but, in the end, points count the same. With Napoli self-combusting, it would be an incredibly bad look if they weren’t one of the five Italian teams that qualify for the Champions League, especially if Bologna and Atalanta made it at their expense.

La Dea bounced back in the last round and is always a threat to rip off four or five wins in a row, so they can’t waste any opportunity. In addition, Lazio would re-enter the race with a win in this one and would be able to lean on renewed enthusiasm. A victory is paramount to have fewer sides to worry about, but they also have a lot more to lose than their rivals. They have a lot on their plate since the Europa League double-legged clash with Milan is at least as important, and their squad might not be properly built for war.

Expected XI (4-3-2-1): Svilar; Celik, Mancini, Llorente, Angelino; Cristante, Paredes, Pellegrini; Dybala, El Shaarawy; Lukaku. 

Doubts:  Karsdorp/Celik, Llorente/Huijsen, Angelino/Spinazzola. 

Injury Report: Spinazzola, Kristensen (thigh injuries) – Probable;
Abraham (ACL tear) – Questionable.
Azmoun (thigh strain) – Out. 

Suspensions: N’Dicka. 




Lazio got both sides of the coin in the home and away contests against Juventus following the coaching change. The expected jolt was there, as their players had a pep in their steps relative to the last few languishing performances with Maurizio Sarri in the dugout. On the other hand, their new system is more complicated and mechanical. It can be exploited with some counter-moves if it’s not fully functional and the squad doesn’t totally fit it.

Going man to man all over the pitch is risky if somebody botches his assignment and lets his direct opponent past him. The Bianconeri feasted on that in Coppa Italia. Teams that had way more time to finesse this tactic, Atalanta and Torino, still have trouble with that occasionally. Growing pains are natural. The only remedy is to make the positives outweigh the negatives.

They surely needed to play with more intensity, but, since they are a veteran squad at heart, they might struggle to power a high-octane scheme for the whole 90 minutes. The goal at the death hid it, but they had lost steam in the second half last weekend too. Igor Tudor will have to be masterful in handling the subs and managing the rhythm to avoid tiring his men out too soon and still have juice down the stretch. The rest will have to come from the transfer market.

It’s not a pure 3-4-2-1, which is in vogue, but more of a hybrid with a 4-2-3-1. We’ll see whether that will change once they have two wingbacks at their disposal, as Luca Pellegrini and Manuel Lazzari were both unavailable so far. They made do with Mattia Zaccagni and Felipe Anderson sans them, with the former handling the role better as Juventus barely attacked on that flank last Saturday. However, the former Verona picked up another injury. Pellegrini is back in this one, although likely off the bench, and the formation would be a lot more conservative with a defender instead of an attacker there. The compromise could be to go with the Brazilian there but an extra midfielder in a supporting role.

Mario Gila has been in transcendent form for months, and he does well wherever they put him, even as a pseudo-fullback. Patric will probably end up playing most of the minutes on the other side of the rearguard once fully healthy. Nicolò Casale is a better fit for the central role than when he has to chase after pacey attackers, and they can’t bench Alessio Romagnoli given his stature, even though he’s not an ideal fit with so much ground to cover because he’s not the quickest cat. Since they can’t change their men now, they’ll have to just protect the defense better if even a very unimaginative side like the Old Lady figured it out quickly. Fast-breaks and through balls shouldn’t be enough for it to come unglue.

The pleasant surprise was Daichi Kamada being comfortable as a pivot and Matteo Guendouzi starring in a more offensive role after they switched things up in the midfield. He’s more physical and provides more balance than he’s credited for. The preparation for the new boss’ first three matches wasn’t standard due to international duties and short turnarounds, but the ideal endpoint at the position should be the Japanese and the Frenchman together and Luis Alberto a few meters in front of them. That properly combines quality and quantity, especially until Nicolò Rovella is at full speed after two months on the shelf due to a sports hernia.

They can mix and match as they please in the supporting roles, but the contributors mostly have the same traits. Instead, the big conundrum concerns Ciro Immobile, as Taty Castellanos might not be more clinical, but he’s surely agile and feisty and ultimately more apt for Tudor’s style, but it’s a tough call in a derby. It’d be quite the statement. They are headed for an interesting summer with him and Alberto, as they have multiple years on their contract and rich salaries. Instead, it’ll be a lot easier to part ways with other veterans if they wish to go younger and more cost-effective.

Expected XI (3-4-2-1): Mandas; Casale, Romagnoli, Gila; Marusic, Kamada, Cataldi, Felipe Anderson; Guendouzi, Alberto; Immobile. 

Doubts:  Casale/Patric, Cataldi/Isaksen, Immobile/Castellanos. 

Injury Report: Pellegrini (ankle sprain), Rovella (sports hernia) – Probable.
Zaccagni (ankle sprain), Lazzari (calf strain), Provedel (ankle sprain) – Out. 


Roma Win – Under 2.5 Goals

Enrico Passarella

Contributor for @footitalia1 | Serie A | News, Transfers, Betting |