Rome will be brought to a standstill this weekend for the season’s first Derby della Capitale at the Stadio Olimpico.
While the Giallorossi have stolen much of the media spotlight with their impressive start, their neighbours have quietly climbed into seventh spot. Delio Rossi’s side were edged out by Fiorentina last weekend to break a run of three consecutive wins.
However, the 56-year-old tactician will have taken heart from the Biancocelesti’s performances to date and – given the reduction of the Calciopoli deduction to only three points – will now set his sights on a UEFA Cup berth. With Paolo Di Canio gone, the pressure is on the Lazio players to show the kind of passion that the great man used to bring to a Roman derby in the biggest test of the season so far.
Inter may be clear favourites to claim the Scudetto, but Roma will chase them to the bitter end. Luciano Spalletti has instilled a great fighting spirit in his side and it was aptly demonstrated last weekend against Atalanta. The Lupi fought back from a goal down to claim a sixth consecutive victory and keep Inter’s lead to four points.
There’s no secret to Roma’s success – they have been prolific in front of goal and are Serie A’s top scorers with 32 goals. Spalletti can also be proud of their disciplinary record – only Roma and Torino are yet to have a player dismissed this term.
Club officials on both sides will be nervously watching events unfold on and off the field. With so much tension in the Olimpico and a history of clashes between fans, they can only hope there are no violent scenes in the stands.
Rossi will be boosted by Stefano Mauri’s timely return from suspension, but Pasquale Foggia is a doubt after picking up an ankle knock last weekend. Swiss star Valon Behrami is back in training but will probably continue to wait for his first action of the season as he’s lacking match fitness.
Spalletti’s squad is blighted by knee injuries. Gilberto Martinez, Matteo Ferrari and Alberto Aquilani miss out. Young French midfielder Ricardo Faty is sidelined for another three weeks. Francesco Totti hurt his ankle last Saturday and was rested for the Valencia game in midweek, but will surely play as a lone striker.
Man on fire: Francesco Totti (Roma) – Er Pupone is now equal Capocannoniere with nine goals after spectacularly overcoming a penalty curse with two spot-kicks last weekend. He’s always a talismanic figure, especially in a Rome derby.
Last season: Lazio 0-2 Roma
Form guide: Lazio (D W W W L) Roma (W W W W W)
Lazio (probable): Peruzzi; Oddo, Siviglia, Cribari, Zauri; Mudingayi, Ledesma, Mutarelli, Mauri; Rocchi, Pandev
roma (probable): Doni; Panucci, Mexes, Chivu, Tonetto; De Rossi, Pizarro, Taddei, Perrotta, Mancini; Totti