Friday, 8 December 2006

Derby della Capitale: Lazio v Roma

Roma set a Serie A record last season when goals from Rodrigo Taddei and Alberto Aquilani secured a 2-0 triumph over city rivals Lazio and an eleventh consecutive league success. This time around the Giallorossi have embarked on another winning streak and hope to move one game closer to their landmark when they visit Lazio on Sunday night.

Roma have six straight victories behind them and are widely regarded as the only side that can realistically challenge leaders Internazionale. With Milan struggling under the weight of a points deduction, and Juventus relegated, the Giallorossi are filling the breach at the top and after a slow start, sit just four points behind Inter. Lazio, however, will be no pushovers. They are on a good run of their own, lying two points off fourth spot despite beginning the campaign with a three-point penalty.

"The Rome derby is in a league of its own," Lazio coach Delio Rossi said. "It is a game unlike any others. It is 'the' game. I experienced other derbies in the past but here in Rome it's completely different. There is tension throughout the week leading up to the game and you feel a unique excitement when you climb the stairs to the stadium because you know the derby is about to start. Compared to other cities, the Rome derby lasts longer. It starts way ahead of the game and continues for a long time afterwards. We will be up against a strong team but I think we're just as good as them. We can beat Roma if we don't make any mistakes."

Roma midfielder Simone Perrotta has played on football's biggest stage, but believes the 'Derby della Capitale' measures up to that. "A derby can be as exciting as a World Cup final," he said. "It is great to see the entire stadium coloured by both the Biancocelesti and the Giallorossi." While Lazio are at full strength, Roma are missing the injured Matteo Ferrari and Aquilani although the main concern for coach Luciano Spalletti is the condition of captain Francesco Totti. Serie A's nine-goal leading scorer is doubtful because of the ankle problem that kept him out of Tuesday's UEFA Champions League win against Valencia.

"We will decide about his fitness on Saturday or Sunday," Roma doctor Mario Brozzi said. "But it's difficult to leave him out. He would play this game even if he only had one leg." Perrotta is hopeful the talisman will be fit by kick-off. "I think Totti will make it. I don't think we'll play the derby without him. We all know how much he wants to be part it."

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