Inter Milan vs. Roma: 4 Key Battles to Watch in Coppa Italia Semifinal 2nd Leg
Lazio lay in wait for the winners of this Coppa Italia semi-final clash, the only thing standing in the way of some much needed silverware for these two beleaguered teams.
Both Inter and Roma have had disastrous seasons, but victory this week offers the chance of some redemption ahead of what's likely to be a summer full of upheaval for both clubs.
So where will this game be won and lost, and for who does it matter most? Read on to find out.
Andrea Stramaccioni vs. Aurelio Andreazzoli
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Andrea Stramaccioni and Aurelio Andreazzoli will know each other well from their time together in the Roma coaching set-up and will both understand one another's position perfectly ahead of this key game.
Good results have been hard to come by for Strama of late and the young Roman tactician will be mindful of the fact that his long-term job security in Milan will be at stake here.
In all, Inter have lost 12 of their 32 league games this term. Crash out of the cup at a time when Inter are floundering in Serie A, a massive 21 points behind leader Juventus, and club patron Massimo Moratti will have no choice but to re-consider his manager's suitability.
Likewise, the Coppa Italia is an audition for Andreazzoli. Zdenek Zeman got them this far, but if the Tuscan caretaker can figure out a way to beat Inter and then overcome local rivals Lazio in the final, it will be him who'll be remembered as the mastermind of Roma's 10th Coppa success. Lose, and he'll spend the summer reading non-stop reports about who's just been linked to his job.
Tommaso Rocchi vs. His Old Rivals
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He's 35, was deemed surplus to requirements at a mid-table side, cost €300,000 and has only scored once for Inter since his January move. It's fair to say Tommaso Rocchi's transfer from Lazio to the Nerazzurri hasn't exactly set the world on fire.
Form aside, however, the Venetian has been a reliable goal threat throughout his career, and having spent almost a decade at their bitter rivals, Roma will know the forward well.
While still in the capital, Rocchi maintained that his aim was to score 100 goals for the Biancocelesti. Before him, it was a feat only achieved by heavyweights of the Italian game: Silvio Piola, Giuseppe Signori, Bruno Giordano and Giorgio Chinaglia. Rocchi's 105 goals in 284 appearances leaves him in good company.
He has also scored five against the Giallorossi, just one less than the aforementioned Piola, Serie A's highest-ever scorer and the man who scored more goals for Lazio than any other in the Derby della Capitale.
He'll be up against his old club should Inter reach the final, but until then, Laziali everywhere will be hoping Rocchi can put one past Roma for Inter—and for old times sake, for Lazio, too.
Totti vs. Zanetti: Elder Statesmen of Serie A, Still Crucial to Their Sides
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Francesco Totti and Javier Zanetti are two of the all-time Serie A greats.
Neither Roma nor Inter could ask for better representatives on or off the pitch, and the special blend of passion, commitment and ability that's been the hallmark of their games throughout the years will live forever in the memories of Calcio fans the world over.
The Roman is now 36 and the Argentine 39. Given the outstanding careers they've had it would be foolish to write off either, but it's fair to say that the pair don't have too many cup finals in their future.
This game is a chance to fly the flag one more time; to lead their sides to victory, give the fans a dream of silverware and show their younger teammates what it means to truly honour a football club. And perhaps between the two greats, it's another chance to try and get one over on a long-respected rival.
The Italian Football Federation vs. Rome's local elections
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Away from the pitch, there's an interesting battle brewing on the outcome of this game.
The Italian Football Federation, FIGC, have set May 26 as the date for this year's Coppa Italia final. The match will be held at the Stadio Olimpico in the Italian capital—at the same time as local government elections.
The recent derby in Serie A caused some trouble in the Eternal City, and local powers are adamant that the next time these sides meet it will be under close police scrutiny and by their rules. Evening games—which Coppa matches usually are—have been ruled out, and the police have already made it clear that they won't divide their attentions on match day, as illustrated by plans to postpone Roma's meeting with Parma had it clashed with the recent election of a new pope.
Should Roma progress, this will be the Derby della Capitale to end them all. Rome's two clubs have never met in a cup final before, and for a fixture that's heated at the best of times, tensions are sure to run high with silverware at stake.
The FIGC are sticking to the date, but don't expect this to be the last we hear of the matter.