Roma Club Focus: Special Coppa Final Instore
While Roma and Napoli were going through the motions of playing out an essentially meaningless 90 minutes on Sunday night, the Giallorossi fans were sending out an unequivocal message ahead of this weekend’s Coppa Italia final.
“After another season leaving a bitter taste, the one imperative is to win the cup”, read one banner in the Curva Sud, while another said simply “26-5-13 – win or run”.
If that wasn’t clear enough, another section of the curva sang, “if you lose the final, we’ll send you to hospital”. After clashes between the two sets of fans before the last derby, such messages have done little to assuage fears of further problems in the capital on Sunday.
For the neutral, a Rome derby in the cup final may well be an enticing prospect, but personally, from a Roma perspective, Lazio are about the last opponents I would want to be facing right now.
Of course if Roma win, needless to say it will be all the sweeter. But after a second disappointing season (which, to his credit, Aurelio Andreazzoli has done his best to save), the pressure to bring in some silverware and thereby qualify for Europe by the back door was already huge. Doing it against your arch-rivals? That raises it up a few notches more.
Andreazzoli has always stressed that he has been looking at the season one game at a time, even after beating Inter and setting up a Coppa final with Lazio. Now the league season is over, the time has now come for him to prepare for the derby. In the 1-1 draw last month, Hernanes was one of the best players on the pitch during the first half, scoring a spectacular goal as both Leandro Castan and Daniele De Rossi stood off the Brazilian to allow him to switch to his left foot and bend a shot past Maarten Stekelenburg.
Both Castan and De Rossi are likely to start again on Sunday, but the latter in particular has been something of an enigma for some time. On the one hand, to drop him in a cup final would be unthinkable given his quality and dedication (which cannot be said for certain others).
On the other, Michael Bradley in particular has often performed better when De Rossi hasn’t been alongside him. Just last weekend against Napoli, the American had an excellent game playing in front of the back four alongside Panagiotis Tachtsidis. Choosing which midfield will best combat the threat of Hernanes will be one of the key choices that Andreazzoli will have to make.
Much will depend on what formation he decides to use. Since taking charge, Andreazzoli has used a variety of systems including 3-4-2-1, 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3. Often these have successfully negated the opposition’s attacking threats, but the changes have also resulted in far less fluidity moving forwards. Miralem Pjanic especially has suffered after playing everywhere this season from right forward (under Zdenek Zeman) to defensive midfield.
Whichever formation has been used, tactic number one has always been ‘give it to Francesco Totti and see what he can do’. Fresh for the final after being suspended last weekend, it will doubtlessly be the same once more on Sunday. And if anyone will take the fans’ messages to heart, Totti will. What has been another mediocre season could end on a high note by lifting the Coppa, but there is no room for mistakes against Lazio. The Giallorossi expect.