Roma try to burst Lazio`s bubble without Totti
Leaders Lazio face inconsistent AS Roma in one of world soccer`s most explosive derbies on Sunday (1400 GMT), but some of the heat has been taken out of the game by Francesco Totti`s suspension.
The Roma captain was harshly sent off in last weekend`s 2-0 win over Lecce for a minor spat with Ruben Olivera but he was so angry about skipping the derby that he charged after Olivera on the sidelines and had to be rugby-tackled by several officials.
Totti, 34, has played for Roma all his career and is always hyped up for the derby.
"I`m so sorry about missing the game I care about the most. Lazio will definitely win now," Totti joked after netting a penalty in Wednesday`s 3-2 Champions League win at Basel.
Totti is intrinsically linked to the chequered history of the derby given he was approached by Roma ultra fans in a 2004 game against Lazio and told the game had to be postponed because of the death of a child before the match.
The rumour was false but the match was abandoned.
In a 1979 derby, a Lazio fan was killed after being hit by a flare while one of last year`s matches was held up for several minutes because of fireworks on the pitch.
There is always some trouble but no specific threats for Sunday have been reported.
Roma fans are far from pleased though given Lazio, relegation candidates last term, are four points clear at the top of Serie A while their rivals are down in ninth.
Lazio have amassed a club record 22 points from nine matches despite not adding much to their modest ranks this term, although new creative midfielder Hernanes has impressed.
Defender Giuseppe Biava was sent off in Sunday`s 1-0 win at Palermo so he misses the derby while goalkeeper Fernando Muslera is facing a race against time to be fit after a thigh strain.
Second-placed Inter Milan have even worse injury problems for Saturday`s visit of Brescia (1945) following Tuesday`s 3-1 Champions League defeat at Tottenham Hotspur.
Midfielder Sulley Muntari has been added to the long list of absentees because of a calf injury but striker Diego Milito showed signs of being somewhere close to top form and fitness again when he came on as a substitute in London.
AC Milan, in third, travel to bottom side Bari on Sunday (1400) while fourth-placed Juventus are also decimated for the home game with Cesena.
Sampdoria look poised to again leave out striker Antonio Cassano, who swore at the club president last week, when they entertain Catania despite fellow striker Nicola Pozzi being suspended for blaspheming after last weekend`s win at Cesena.