The De Vrij debate at the heart of Lazio & Inter's battle for a Champions League place

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Should manager Simon Inzaghi start the centre-back against their Serie A rival in a crucial fixture, ahead of his departure to the same opponent?

A conundrum of sorts will fall into Lazio manager Simone Inzaghi's on Sunday when he has to decide whether or not to start centre-back Stefan de Vrij.

As one of the most highly-rated and consistent defenders in Italy, his name would usually be among the first on the team sheet – except for the fact that he is to join rival club Inter, who Lazio will be playing to contest for the fourth and final Champions League spot, in the summer.

Lazio currently occupy the fourth spot, but if they were to lose, Inter would move above them finish in that coveted final Champions League place.

A lot is at stake on the final day of the Serie A season and though there is uncertainty surrounding De Vrij's motivations – surely he would want his future club to taste success – manager Inzaghi has insisted that there is no conflict of interest.

"We’ll play our usual game, regardless of the result. We don’t know what attitude Inter will have, but must focus only on ourselves," the Lazio boss told reporters, according to Football Italia.

“I had wanted to avoid this final day showdown, but we got there with a three-point lead and worked to be ready for this situation. We talked a lot in the locker room, the lads know what is at stake at the end of a very long season. We need the right approach, concentrated, humble and avoid errors.

“There has been so much talk about this, but I just watched him and had no doubts. I am certain he wants to leave his mark on this club, the fans and his team-mates. He’ll also want to show Inter what a great defender they are signing for the next five years.

“We know that there’s a draw open to us, but both teams will play to win. Inter have great players, an excellent coach and it’s an exciting challenge.

“I don’t like to say whether Lazio deserve the Champions League more than Inter or not. I only know that everything would change in terms of finances and prestige. We wanted this with all our strength, we played more than anyone this season and lost a few players along the way.

“I want to know that after the final whistle, this team gave all it had. We are at the final climb of a very long Giro d’Italia. Let the best team win.”

At the core of the debate is the assumption that De Vrij is not a good team player, ready to jump ship as soon as the opportunity arises. But does this worry have any sort of merit?

Stefan De Vrij Lazio

It hasn't been news that the Dutch international has been unhappy in Rome this season amid rumours in the January transfer window that he would leave for either Manchester United or Liverpool.

De Vrij himself took to his own Facebook account to thank Lazio fans for their continued support, detailing that he was ready for a new adventure: “It has been a very difficult period full of speculations on my future to come to this point that nobody desired. Unfortunately we were not able to find a satisfying agreement for both parties due to various reasons.

“I understand the disappointment of the Lazio fans very well and it hurts me leaving in this way. Even though I am very happy and I feel at home here, sometimes we need to get out of our comfort zone to achieve our desired goals.

“I will be forever grateful to Lazio and to the fans for always being there for me, for the trust and opportunities given. I have always tried to demonstrate that by giving the best of me and I will keep doing that until the end.

“Thank you, Stefan.”

This had stemmed after the defender rejected the offer of a new contract with the Biancocelesti and the club found it hard to reach any sort of agreement of a new deal.

“We’ll explain our reasons later,” Lazio's sporting director, Igli Tare, told Mediaset at the time.

“There’s a limit and that’s been breached, and it’s not become a question of correctness. He’s always been an exceptional professional and he’s given a lot to Lazio, and Lazio has given a lot to him, but at the end of the season, our paths will divide.”

Being a contract rebel aside, the 26-year-old has been devoid of off-pitch drama since arriving from Feyenoord four years ago and would be expected to remain a professional until he leaves Lazio for Inter.

But Calciomeracto, however, reported that he is expected to skip out on the Serie A clash against Inter tomorrow, and would be due to meet his manager later in the day to hear the news from him first hand.

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It would be a catch-22 situation regardless, and Inzaghi would have to choose between risking the loss of one of his best defenders, or compromising the fixture by starting De Vrij.

The first fixture between the two sides, played in December of last year, ended in a 0-0 draw.

All Lazio need is a draw against Inter to maintain their qualification to the Champions League, and Inzaghi would have to look to Luis Felipe to fill in for the centre-back position.

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