Roma play their most important game of the season so far on Sunday when they take on Lazio in the first Derby Della Capitale of Jose Mourinho’s reign.
It has been a largely positive start for Mourinho at Roma, although he is yet to oversee a game of the same magnitude as a derby until this weekend.
The Giallorossi struggled somewhat in big games under Mourinho’s predecessor Paulo Fonseca, although his last attempt was a victory over Lazio in the most recent derby. With their new boss at the helm, Roma will be aiming to assert their superiority again.
It is, of course, the red and yellow part of Rome that has enjoyed the most success in this fixture traditionally, with 66 wins in comparison to Lazio’s 47. The last time Roma won a derby as the designated away team, even though the games are always at the shared home ground of Stadio Olimpico, was almost five years ago, though. Furthermore, neither side has won consecutive derbies since 2016.
Nevertheless, confidence should be high given that Roma are already four points above Lazio in the early Serie A table. In fact, Maurizio Sarri’s side are winless from their past four games.
Roma are without captain Lorenzo Pellegrini for the clash after his controversial red card against Udinese in midweek. However, Mourinho was in no mood to discuss how they might replace their key man.
Among those who remain available, meanwhile, are goalkeeper Rui Patricio and striker Tammy Abraham, both of whom will probably get to play their first Rome derby. In addition, Mourinho went out of his way to hint that Matias Vina could be freshly available for his.
It will also be Mourinho’s first Rome derby in the dugout. His most recent comparable match was a 2-1 loss for Tottenham against Arsenal in March, but his overall record in city rivalries across his career is overwhelmingly positive, with 78 wins from 116 games.
Incidentally, Mourinho has only ever faced Sarri in the dugout once before. On that occasion in 2018, his Manchester United drew 2-2 with the Italian’s Chelsea – a game that Chris Smalling played. It seems unlikely the Englishman will be a starter this time around, though; Gianluca Mancini and Roger Ibanez have established themselves as the early first-choice centre-back pairing.
One interesting subplot to the game will be the potential involvement of Pedro, who switched Roma for Lazio in the summer after scoring against his current employers in the most recent derby. Only Arne Selmosson and Aleksandar Kolarov have previously scored for both sides in the derby, so Roma’s rearguard will be aiming to prevent their former teammate becoming a third to do so.
Motivation will be high on either side of the divide for a standout fixture in the Serie A calendar, and it is a challenge Roma will be up for.
The game kicks off at 5pm UK time on Sunday and will be live on BT Sport 2.