Totti fires defiant derby warning to Lazio

Milan (AFP) – Club legend Francesco Totti has fired a defiant message to Lazio ahead of a capital derby that could help Roma claim the second automatic Champions League spot in Serie A.

Even if the 40-year-old talisman can only hope for a cameo role, he said Roma are out to stretch their run of derby league wins to five in succession on their way to beating Napoli to a top-two finish.

“The derby? It’s like all the others: it’s there to win, because on the pitch we want to destroy them,” Totti said at the unveiling of his new brand of Nike football boots in the Italian capital.

Totti, who is expected to end his storied career at the end of the current season, added: “We’re all relaxed at the moment, we’ve got a four-point lead (on Napoli) and there are few games left.”

Roma, though, face AC Milan, away, then Juventus at home after hosting Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday at an early kick-off time of 1030 GMT.

Roma’s 4-1 romp at Pescara last week kept Luciano Spalletti’s men in second spot in Serie A, although with an eight-point deficit to Juventus they have virtually conceded the title with five games remaining.

Yet the win also ended with a spat between Spalletti and Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko, who launched a tirade at the Italian when he was replaced with 20 minutes remaining.

Dzeko is tied with Torino striker Andrea Belotti on 25 goals at the top of the Serie A goals charts and is determined to win the ‘Capocannoniere’ award.

Unconfirmed reports on Thursday linked the “unhappy” Bosnian with a move to AC Milan, claims that Dzeko’s agent, Irfan Redzepagic, later played down.

“Regarding Edin, I can say that he is playing very well at Roma and is very happy to be playing for the Giallorossi. I know nothing of other transfer rumours,” he was reported as saying by LaRoma24.it. 

The news comes amid persistent reports that Spalletti, who has yet to win a trophy with Roma in what is his second spell at the club, will quit at the end of the season.

Roma will also be keeping a close eye on what happens at the San Siro later on Sunday when an Inter Milan side desperate to salvage a fading challenge for a Europa League place host Maurizio Sarri’s well-oiled Napoli side.

Inter have slipped to seventh, at seven points behind the Europa League places, following a dismal five-game winless run that includes three defeats and an incredible 5-4 collapse at Fiorentina last time out.

With a seven-point deficit to Napoli, Lazio have little chance of snatching a shot at a Champions League spot.

And with Europa League-chasing Atalanta only one point behind in fifth before they host Juventus on Friday, Simone Inzaghi’s men, arguably, are also under pressure to secure an important win.

A pair of second-half goals from Kevin Strootman and Radja Nainggolan sent Lazio crashing to a 2-0 derby defeat when they hosted Roma last December, in what turned out to be their fourth successive league reverse to their city rivals.

Inzaghi, however, is hoping to buck the trend.

“I expect us to produce the match we’ve prepared for,” he told Lazio Style Channel. “We know how to prepare for a derby: we’ll try to stick to our game, and hope the fans get behind us because we could really do with their help.”

Fixtures (GMT)

Friday

Atalanta v Juventus (1845)

Saturday

Torino v Sampdoria (1845)

Sunday

Roma v Lazio (1030), Bologna v Udinese, Caglari v Pescara, Crotone v AC Milan, Empoli v Sassuolo, Genoa v Chievo, Palermo v Fiorentina (all 1300), Inter Milan v Napoli (1845)

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