Rome Derby: Eusebio Di Francesco vs Simone Inzaghi

Chloe Beresford by Chloe Beresford / 16 November 2017, 14:11

Undoubtedly in the shadow of his brother Pippo as a player, Simone Inzaghi is now taking the limelight as a Coach. His Lazio side secured an Europa League berth last term, and this weekend sees a mouth-watering Rome derby emerge as the Biancocelesti will be the nominal away side at the Stadio Olimpico this Saturday evening.

It will be a fascinating test for both Inzaghi and his counterpart Eusebio Di Francesco, with both the young bosses having led their sides to fourth and fifth place respectably this term. Last term Lazio pulled of a stunning two-legged victory over their capital rivals in the Coppa Italia semifinals, and a closer look at these matches reveals how Inzaghi will approach this Saturday’s derby.

Back then, Luciano Spalletti was in charge of the Giallorossi, a tactician who regularly deploys his preferred 4-3-2-1 formation. But rather than go with a more narrow 4-3-3 against the experienced boss, Inzaghi packed the wide areas with a 3-5-2, a meticulously planned approach which was later explained in detail by his brother.

“Simone told me how he played the derby,” said Pippo to La Gazzetta dello Sport the day after the 2-0 win.

“On Sunday night he had studied the Roma-Inter match with his staff and he suggested the ideal ways to stop them. “He’s an intelligent and evolved Coach, I do not like those who never change the system.

“If he had put Lazio in the derby with a 4-3-3 he would have been ripped to shreds,” he continued. “But he started with an almost mirrored formation and took off a great satisfaction against a technician who is as well-prepared as Spalletti.”

On the reverse side, Di Francesco is a confirmed disciple of the 4-3-3, a formation he stuck to almost exclusively at previous club Sassuolo and one he has successfully implemented in the capital. When defending, his players are well-disciplined at falling back into a 4-5-1, with the full-backs Alessandro Florenzi and Aleksandar Kolarov ready to push up in the attacking phase.

Narrow 1-0 victories against Torino, Crotone and Bologna preceded a stunning 3-0 home victory over Chelsea, the tactician showing that he has been able to stop the topsy-turvy runs of results seen under Spalletti, suring up their sometimes leaky defence. The next match saw Roma pegged back twice after taking the lead away to Fiorentina, only to blitz their plucky opponents to a 4-2 scoreline by the end of the match.

This tenacity was something clearly absent before, and they will need everything they have got in order to get the desired result against their derby-day rivals. Inzaghi has largely used a 3-5-1-1 formation this term, with wing-backs Senad Lulic and Adam Marusic dropping back to provide defensive cover.

Ex-Liverpool stalwart Lucas Leiva provides the holding role in midfield along side Italian international Marco Parolo, allowing the excellent Sergej Milinkovic Savic to enjoy a more freedom to attack, outfoxing defences as he goes.

Another former Liverpool man is in stellar form in Luis Alberto, providing the support to striker Ciro Immobile to have allowed him to climb to the top of both scoring and assist charts in Europe’s top-five leagues.

But whoever wins the day tactically, no-one will have to explain to this pair what the derby fixture means to the city. It was back in 1999/00 that Inzaghi and Di Francesco faced each other for the sides they manage today, both making the starting lineup in Lazio’s home fixture that season.

“The first time I played a derby, we all went under the Curva Sud before the game,” said the Roma boss in an interview this week. “I can assure you that my legs had never trembled before a match until then.”

Let’s hope both bosses can hold their nerve and keep their legs from trembling when they lead their sides out this Saturday in order that the game lives up to its superb billing.

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