Kick Off: Sunday,Sep 26 2021 11:59
Lazio and AS Roma clash at Stadio Olimpico will be held on Sunday evening, as the Derby della Capitale takes centre stage in the sixth round of the Serie A season.
As one of the most fiercely-fought encounters in all of Calcio, the Rome Derby traditionally hosts intense displays of love and loathing from fans on both sides of the capital divide. Therefore, the long-awaited return of supporters for the grand occasion will be warmly welcomed on Sunday, after the sterile closed-doors derbies during the past year. The two teams shared a win apiece amid an echoing Olimpico last term - Lazio's 3-0 success being countered by Roma's 2-0 victory in May - but much has changed on either side since then. At Roma, the inimitable presence of Jose Mourinho has helped the inconsistent Giallorossi become a winning machine, with only one loss in the league and in Europe so far being outweighed by a total of seven competitive victories. Their latest three-point haul came at the expense of Udinese on Thursday night, when Mourinho's men emerged 1-0 winners from a close-fought encounter as Tammy Abraham's close-range strike proved just enough to see off the challenge of Luca Gotti's visitors. That followed Roma's first setback of the season - a 3-2 loss versus Verona, when they blew a lead in the second-half - but turning things around just a few days later extended their winning streak at home in Serie A to seven games: their best such run since 2017. Not only that, but they have also scored in each of their last nine league matches and are looking particularly slick in the final third. While Mourinho's start to life in the capital could hardly have gone any better, a truer test of his credentials as Roma's saviour will come on Sunday, as he undertakes his first Derby della Capitale without the services of inspirational captain Lorenzo Pellegrini, who will bitterly regret his late sending-off against Udinese.
Ahead of the 155th Rome Derby in Serie A history, Lazio may have recorded only 39 wins to Roma's 55, but remain unbeaten in their last four league derbies as 'hosts'. Furthermore, the Aquile are unbeaten in their last 15 home games in the Italian top flight; a fact which may help confidence in the camp after a sticky spell of late. Having been appointed to succeed the popular Simone Inzaghi in the summer, Maurizio Sarri and his staff have called for time to embed his famed tactical principles, which will overhaul how Lazio have operated over the last few - often successful - years. Patience will wear thin, though, if results do not improve. On Thursday, Sarri's side came up against a Torino team seeking a third consecutive victory and were ultimately fortunate to escape with a point, as Pepe Reina was by far the busier goalkeeper in a game they salvaged by virtue of Ciro Immobile's stoppage-time penalty against his former club. In all, Lazio have now failed to win any of their last four matches, with defeats to Milan and Galatasaray being followed by last weekend's disappointing 2-2 home draw with Cagliari, in which they needed an 83rd-minute strike from Danilo Cataldi to rescue them after Immobile's opener had been overturned by the Sardinians. The Euro 2020-winning striker also scored in the first Derby last season, having sprung the opposition's wayward defensive line on several occasions, but he will surely find his task tougher this time around versus a resurgent Roma side.
Separated by four points in the standings ahead of Sunday's clash, the gap is set to grow further in Roma's favour, as they can capitalise on a transitional period for Lazio under very different management. The Giallorossi's goal threat is diminished a little by their captain's absence, but their three-man line behind the striker possesses more than enough guile and prowess to seal all three points in the season's first Derby.
Pick: AS Roma