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Serie A Preview: All Eyes Will Be On Eternal City Derby As Roma Target Top

derby-romaLocal bragging rights and the chance to lord it over Italy’s traditionally stronger northern clubs won’t be the only prizes at stake this weekend when Roma host Lazio in the ‘Derby della Capitale’.

After Roma’s 3-2 Champions League win over Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday, winning the derby could be the ice-breaker for Roma, who are poised to go top if they win and joint leaders Fiorentina and Inter slip up on their respective travels to Sampdoria and Torino.

Garcia just has to hope Roma, who suffered a “blackout” during five, second-half minutes in which Leverkusen pulled level, don’t suffer another similar episode.

“We had a five-minute blackout that I can’t explain,” Garcia said.

Belgian midfielder Radja Nainggolan offered a more emphatic explanation:

“We made the mistake of coming out of the dressing room thinking we had the game sewn up.”

On their day, Lazio can beat any team in Serie A but three defeats in their past four games, as well as recent derby history, means they go in as underdogs. Stefano Pioli’s men have not dominated a league derby since a 3-2 win in November 2012 and last week’s shock 3-1 defeat at home to resurgent AC Milan prompted a Lotito outburst that left little to the imagination.

“Your performance was embarrassing,” Lotito told the squad, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. “You have to completely change your attitude and show some balls.”

Lazio are without influential central defender Stefan De Vrij, who in midweek was ruled out for six months after undergoing knee surgery.

Champions Juventus, meanwhile, are still nine points off the pace but, following their 1-1 Champions League draw away to Borussia Monchengladbach in midweek, morale is high. Juve travel to Empoli looking for their third win in four games, but – after recent draws with fellow minnows Chievo and Frosinone and defeat a fortnight ago to Sassuolo – midfielder Paul Pogba said they are taking nothing for granted.

“It’ll be a tough game away from home,” Pogba told Juve’s in-house television channel JTV. “There are no easy matches at this level and that is a real motivator, you have to be focused and show that desire to win every week.”

Elsewhere, AC Milan, only five points off the pace, host Atalanta on Saturday looking for their fourth win on the trot, while Napoli, in fourth at just two points adrift, are expected to account for Udinese at the San Paolo.

Italian Serie A fixtures

Verona v Bologna, AC Milan v Atalanta

Torino v Inter Milan, Empoli v Juventus, Frosinone v Genoa, Palermo v Chievo, Roma v Lazio, Sassuolo v Carpi, Napoli v Udinese, Sampdoria v Fiorentina