Roma’s 2-0 Derby win over bitter rivals Lazio last November was watched by only 35,253 spectators. The figure was well below Roma’s biggest crowd of the season, when more than 57,000 saw the 1-1 draw with Barcelona.
It’s a figure which probably won’t be bettered this Sunday. Just as they did in the first Derby della Capitale, Roma and Lazio Ultras have announced they will boycott the match. It’s a sorry state for both. Those fans are protesting security measures inside the Stadio Olimpico, with a barrier essentially splitting the Curva.
While the stadium may be sparse it will not take away from the build-up and tension which surrounds the Derby. And at this stage of the season, as season targets draw closer, it’s a vitally important contest for both.
Roma are chasing a Champions League appearance for a third successive season and with a five point advantage over both Fiorentina and Inter are the favourites to do so with only eight matches remaining. An eight game winning run, halted by the Nerazzurri before the international break, has them in this position.
Not that Luciano Spalletti is getting carried away. “Form doesn’t count for anything, when you’re in good form it can cause you problems, this [Derby] clears everything. It’s an advantage for the team that’s struggling.”
That puts the ball in Lazio’s court. The Biancocelesti have recorded just two wins in their last nine in all competitions. Go back to the start of 2016 and it’s only five victories. Without doubt, the pressure is on Stefano Pioli and his team.
The coach is likely to get the sack if Lazio finish outside the European places. And their chances of that are slim. Currently eighth, Lazio are a long way from fifth-placed Inter, 13 points. Their only saving grace is to finish sixth and hope Juventus win the Coppa Italia. That would give the final Europa League spot to sixth place. But Milan are seven points up the road, so even that looks an uphill climb. “We have to beat Roma,” exclaimed captain Lucas Biglia. They haven’t done so since the Coppa Italia Final in 2013.
Lazio drew with Milan in their last match and Pioli admits his team is not playing with any confidence. The boss will be without the suspended Senad Lulic, while Spalletti has a full squad at his disposal.
This remains the Rome Derby and with both teams needing a win it is sure to be a typically passionate affair. Even if some won’t be there to see it.