The Rome derby is going to be one massively significant and intense encounter...
Last season Roma won both the encounters against fierce city-rivals Lazio in Serie A and so did they the first one of this campaign to complete a hat-trick of Derby della Capitale victories. Tonight's match will be about stretching that run and putting Lazio in their place.
It will also be about getting past the Round of 16 in the Coppa Italia and reaching the quarter-finals as well as gaining a psychological advantage in the Scudetto race. With 35 points from 20 matches, Roma are currently placed in fourth place in the league standings, six points behind leaders Milan and just two behind Lazio, who are third. A win tonight will not only make them look the better side and beef up their confidence, it will also deflate the self-conviction of the Biancocelesti.
Coach Claudio Ranieri has firmly underlined the importance of the clash and wants a victory at any cost. The Italian said on Tuesday: "It's not a real derby, but we can feel it, and we want to win. I have rediscovered my team and we have been trying to climb point after point to win the Scudetto. Favourites for tomorrow? There is no favourite for the derby. We are playing well, but so are they.
"There is happiness and enthusiasm in the dressing room. Everyone wants to be there, and those teams with the most quality get there in the end. I expect a win tomorrow as Roma are aiming to win every competition they are involved in."
Dipped In Disappointment
Roma's start to the new year has been as much positive as Lazio's has been negative. While the Lupi have leapt to two wins in three league fixtures in 2011, the Aquile have fluttered to just one victory in three and look to be happy settling for a top-four place in the league standings despite being third at the moment.
Encouragingly for Lazio, though, they warmed up for tonight's Rome derby with a narrow 1-0 victory over Sampdoria at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday and will aim to build on that match. The former Italian champions have lost their last three encounters against their ferocious city-rivals but knowing that the form book counts for little in such big games and having reached won the Coppa Italia in 2008-09 they should be targeting a win.
Coach Edy Reja retains his side's ambitions for progress in the competition and enthused on Tuesday: "Nobody wants the lose the derby, even though it is in the Coppa Italia. It is very important for us to continue this adventure. For Roma this is less important because they are in the Champions League, and they are fighting for the league with the challengers."
20 players have been called up to the squad. Julio Sergio will stand in goal and Mirko Vucinic is expected to start upfront. Talisman Francesco Totti is unavailable as he is suspended following a four-match ban imposed on him for kicking out at Inter's Mario Balotelli in last season's Coppa Italia final.
Reja has called up 20 players to his team. Bizzarri is likely to be slotted between the posts, Hernanes, Mauri and Zarate will be the three attack-minded midfielders and Floccari the lone striker upfront.