x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Lotito expects Roman battle

Lazio may be 14 points clear of Roma, but club president Claudio Lotito expects a battle when the two sides meet in the Eternal City derby.

ROME // Lazio may be 14 points clear of Roma in the Serie A standings, but club president Claudio Lotito expects a battle when the two sides meet on Sunday in the Eternal City derby. The Biancoceleste go into the sell-out encounter at the Stadio Olimpico on the back of three consecutive wins and determined to pile further misery on their neighbours.

Roma have collected one point from their last five league games and are just one point clear of the drop zone. But Lotito, whose Lazio side are fourth in the standings, insists the form book goes out of the window during Rome derbies. "I am not convinced we are favourites," he said. "The derby is a tournament within a tournament. A game that doesn't take into account the standings or the previous results of the two teams.

"All that matters is the approach to the game and the focus of the teams on the pitch." Roma have won just two games and lost six of nine encounters this campaign in Italy's top flight leaving coach Luciano Spalletti skating on thin ice. Their 3-1 triumph against Chelsea in last week's Champions League game failed to spark the Giallorossi's campaign to life as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Bologna on Saturday.

But it did prove Roma are unpredictable, according to Lotito. "I don't believe Roma are in a crisis," he said. "Roma have suffered many unfavourable episodes this campaign and we expect a tough game." Meanwhile, Napoli continued their fine start to the season to defeat Salernitana 3-1 and move into the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia. An own goal by Maurizio Peccarisi and Joao Inacio Pia's strike put the Serie A side two up at the break. Arturo Di Napoli gave the Serie B club brief hope with a goal five minutes after half-time, but just three minutes later a Marek Hamsik penalty sealed Napoli's progression.

Udinese beat Reggina 8-7 on spot-kicks after a goalless clash. Serie A strugglers Sampdoria beat Serie B Empoli 2-1. * With agencies