ROME - Troubled AS Roma take on Lazio in the city derby on Sunday desperate to save their season after being eliminated from the Champions League in midweek.
Roma lost 6-2 on aggregate to Shakhtar Donetsk in the last 16 and go into the derby encounter in need of a win to cut the five-point deficit on their arch rivals, who occupy the fourth and last Champions League qualifying spot.
The previous meetings this season between the two sides were both won by Roma - 2-0 in the league and 2-1 in the Italian Cup - but with Claudio Ranieri having left last month, new coach Vincenzo Montella is now feeling the heat.
"A month ago we were all brilliant players so I don't know why people are thinking differently now," said former Roma player Montella who has been stung by midweek criticism.
"Nobody goes out there to lose. We know what the atmosphere will be like and the fans should know we'll be giving it our all."
Montella has also had to deal with some tricky off-the-field issues at sixth-placed Roma.
Striker Adriano, who started just two games all season, returned to Brazil this week after his contract was terminated and there has been a public spat between the coach and Marco Borriello over penalty-taking duties in the absence of Francesco Totti.
Borriello missed from the spot against Shakhtar and Montella told reporters later that David Pizarro, who scored from 12 metres in the preceding match against Lecce, should have taken it.
"Next time I'll take it," joked Montella who could bring Totti into the side for Borriello on Sunday.
Lazio have surprised many pundits by maintaining their form after a fine start to the season.
Last weekend's 2-0 win over Palermo saw them close within two points of third-placed Napoli.
Edy Reja's wily coaching has forged a compact, spirited side characterised by a miserly defence. Lazio may have scored just 35 goals from 28 games but they have conceded only 23, the second lowest in Serie A behind leaders AC Milan.
"Roma have talented, technical and experienced players and when they play at their best they are difficult to beat," said Reja.
"We will have to give our all as we have done throughout this championship."
Brazilian defender Dias is a major doubt but right back Stephan Lichtsteiner and midfielder Stefano Mauri should be fit. Tommaso Rocchi is back in training and could play in attack.
Elsewhere, second-placed Inter Milan travel to Brescia on Friday ahead of their Champions League return against Bayern Munich while Juventus, in seventh, visit Cesena on Saturday.
AC Milan host Bari in Sunday's early match and third-placed Napoli travel to struggling Parma in the late game.comments