Hostilities resume as Roma take on Lazio in the Derby Della Capitale on Friday.
The two arch-rivals have not played each other in almost a year, with their last meeting in January 2020 ending as a 1-1 draw. This has been the longest gap between two derbies since the 1988-89 season, when Lazio regained promotion to Serie A four seasons after being relegated.
Now, Roma are looking to assert their superiority over their rivals once again.
With hopes of a high finish this season, Roma have plenty of motivation for one of the most fierce derbies in world football. Pride is at stake, but so are three points that could be crucial to the final standings.
Roma know they need to start winning big matches if they are to retain their status in the top four, and while there are better opponents in the league than Lazio, games do not come much bigger than this.
Given the importance of the game, Paulo Fonseca is keeping his cards close to his chest over his team selection. He refused to give anything away about his lineup, although there are suggestions that he may use the same 11 players that started last time out against Inter.
That could mean a first Derby Della Capitale appearance for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who hadn’t joined the club at the time of the first game against Lazio last season and missed the second.
The attacking midfielder is fit and firing now, though, and could play a key role after enjoying one of the best starts of the season of any player in Europe.Embed from Getty Images
Gonzalo Villar and Roger Ibanez could also get their first taste of the Rome Derby, while Pau Lopez will be hoping for a better showing than his last game against Lazio this time last year – and his recent form suggests he will be able to.
Pedro returns to the matchday squad after an injury setback. However, it is unlikely he will go straight back into the starting lineup.
After drawing both of his derbies as Roma manager so far, Fonseca will be eager to guide his side to a win this time around. It would be a significant statement from a team still looking to prove a point to others.
There would be no better situation to do so in than in the face of their rivals.
Roma have not won in their last three attempts against Lazio – their longest streak without a derby win since 2012-13. They go into this game six points above their rivals, though, so will be determined to put that record right and increase the gap.
The first since the pandemic, it will be a different derby to normal. Even with no fans present, though, the city will still be awaiting the spectacle with great anticipation.
As former Roma boss Rudi Garcia once said, “You do not play a derby, you win it.” It is time to do so again.
The game kicks off at 7:45pm UK time and will be available to watch live on Premier Sports 1.
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