Roma is struggling to meet the higher expectations produced in Mourinho’s first term when the Giallorossi won the inaugural edition of the Europa Conference League.
Lazio, meanwhile, is on the upswing as Sarri’s squad fine-tunes his intricate passing schemes.
The difference was clear in the Rome derby on Sunday when Sarri’s Lazio edged Mourinho’s Roma 1-0 with an early goal from Felipe Anderson to leapfrog its city rival and move up to third place in Serie A.
“It turned into a tough, dirty match and their physicality made it difficult,” Sarri said. “But we remained united.”
“This is one of the most intense derbies in the world. In London there are lot of derbies but there’s no comparison,” said Sarri, who coached Chelsea in 2018-19.
Also, Juventus beat Inter Milan 2-0 in the derby d'Italia for its fourth straight league win to move level with Roma, two points behind Lazio and Atalanta.
Earlier, Monza was boosted by the presence of Pablo Marí, the Spanish defender who was stabbed in the back in a knife attack at a shopping center on Oct. 27. Unable to play for a few months, Marí saluted the crowd and teammates before watching a 2-0 win over Hellas Verona.
Amid a fervent atmosphere at the Stadio Olimpico, Lazio took control early and went ahead courtesy of a defensive error by Roma.
Lazio winger Pedro stole the ball from Roa defender Roger Ibañez as the Giallorossi attempted to play out from the back and then set up Anderson with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Anderson, playing in a “false nine” position with Ciro Immobile injured, quickly deposited the ball into the net.
It was the fourth time a defensive error from Roma led to a goal this season – the most such mistakes in Serie A.
Roma nearly equalized minutes later with a shot from Nicolò Zaniolo that hit the crossbar. But Roma again proved ineffective at finding the target – like when the Giallorossi failed to produce a single shot on goal in a 1-0 loss at home to Italian league leader Napoli two weeks ago.
In past seasons, Lazio had always struggled when missing Immobile. But Sarri’s intuition to move Anderson into the false nine position recalls a similarly successful move he made at Napoli with Dries Mertens years ago.
Unlike a traditional center forward relying on crosses, Anderson is an agile mover who can confuse opposing defenses – just as he did in a 2-0 win for Lazio at fellow top-four contender Atalanta two weeks ago.
Roma is still without dynamic forward Paulo Dybala, the former Juventus player who is out injured, and center forward Tammy Abraham has been off target all season after scoring 23 goals across all competitions last term.
“We’re lacking lucidness in the final 25 meters (yards),” Mourinho said. “We’re missing that spark that Paulo provides.”
Lazio, which was missing key midfielder Sergej Milinković-Savić through suspension, has now kept clean sheets in six of its last seven matches and also has among the most productive attacks in the league.
Roma finished second in its Europa League group, three points behind Real Betis, meaning it will face a playoff in February to stay in the competition against a team that dropped out of the Champions League. Lazio also struggled in Europe and dropped down to the Conference League.
After a slow start to the season and a disastrous Champions League campaign, Juventus is starting to click.
Filip Kostić assisted on both goals as Adrien Rabiot and Nicolò Fagioli each scored in the second half for the Bianconeri.
Juventus also had a potential goal from Danilo waved off by VAR.
Inter was left in seventh, one point behind Juventus and Roma.
FIORENTINA WINS AGAIN
Fiorentina won 2-0 at Sampdoria for its fourth straight win in all competitions. Giacomo Bonaventura and Nikola Milenković scored for the Viola.
Also, Bologna beat Torino 2-1 in a midtable clash.
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Andrew Dampf, The Associated Press