Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi insists his side “do not fear” in-form Roma ahead of their derby clash at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.
Roma go into the encounter having won their last four matches in all competitions, leaving them a point behind fourth-placed AC Milan in Serie A and on course to reach the Champions League quarter-finals.
Lazio, in contrast, have lost three and drawn the other of their last four outings as they fell six points adrift of Roma domestically and exited the Europa League.
Rather than looking at Saturday’s showdown with trepidation though, Inzaghi sees it as an ideal chance to cut the gap to their rivals.
The former Lazio striker, whose side are hosts, said on his club’s website: “We have great respect for Roma, but we do not fear them.
“Tomorrow’s match will be very important. We know how much it means for the city, for our fans and for our league placing.
“We’re slightly behind in the table and tomorrow we have the opportunity to shorten the distances.
“We will have to play an excellent game with respect for the Giallorossi, for their coach, but without fear of anyone.
“The stadium tomorrow will be almost entirely ours, we will receive great energy from our fans.
“We will have to use our head, legs and heart.”
Inzaghi admits he has some “question marks” over his line-up following Tuesday’s goalless draw with AC Milan in the Coppa Italia.
One of the players whose fitness Inzaghi will be assessing ahead of the derby is midfielder Luis Alberto, who returned from a fortnight on the sidelines to make a second-half appearance in midweek.
Inzaghi added: “He has not trained well yet, but on Tuesday he played 25 minutes. He is training to get back on par with his team-mates.”
Roma head into the match having held the upper hand in derby clashes in recent years.
Of the last 13 meetings between the two capital clubs, Roma have claimed eight victories and lost just twice.
Roma boss Eusebio Di Francesco hopes to see more of the same on Saturday but acknowledges it will be no stroll in the park for his side.
He said: “It’s a really tense derby. We don’t want to slip away from the Champions League spots while Lazio want to close the gap with us. It’s a tricky match and losing would be a blow for either side.
“A derby always poses difficulties. We’ll be up against a side who are very dangerous on the counter and good at getting midfielders into the box. It will be tough as derbies always are.
“We’ll play with passion, heart and commitment. We’ll put our heart before our heads.”
Di Francesco said defender Kostas Manolas is fit to play after shaking off an ankle injury but refused to confirm whether veteran midfielder Daniele De Rossi would start, with Roma travelling to Porto for the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday.
Di Francesco added on his club’s website: “I can’t tell you if he’ll play tomorrow. All I know is that the next match is always the most important match.
“He’s been training consistently and looking good. He’s fine at the moment and he’s improved his fitness.”