Few events grip the Eternal City quite like derby nights, when Rome's finest congregate in the majestic and historic surroundings of the Foro Italico. Wherever Lazio and Roma lie in the table, these modern-day gladiators can be guaranteed to set about each other with fierce intent on the Stadio Olimpico turf.
The derby del Campidoglio is much more than simply a sporting contest. For almost 80 years now, the Italian capital has reverberated twice a year with the passions roused by Romans who traditionally hail either from the heart of the city or from the newer neighbourhoods on the outskirts. FIFA.com takes a closer look at this special rivalry, set in a city whose very history has been marked by meetings between its two greatest teams.
At the start of the 1920s, Rome boasted no fewer than eight clubs in the region's highest division. For Italo Foschi, that was too many, and the Fortitudo Pro Roma President proposed a merger of the kind already tried in Florence, Naples and Bari to help the capital compete with the more powerful teams in the north.
Thus, on 22 July 1927, Alba-Audace, Roman and Fortitudo merged to form Associazione Sportiva Roma, with the capital's iconic Capitoline Wolf used as club emblem and the team sporting the erstwhile colours of Fortitudo, yellow and red. From 1929 to 1940, Roma played at the Campo Testaccio in the southern neighbourhood from which the stadium drew its name, no doubt the most overwhelmingly working-class quarter in the capital. The venue was built by Silvio Sensi, grandfather of the current club President, Rosella Sensi.
Lazio would have joined in the merger too, were it not for the firm opposition of club member General Giorgio Vaccaro, who later became President of the Italian Football Association between 1933 and 1942.
Societa Sportiva Lazio had been in existence since 9 January 1900, in fact, after being originally established by nine young locals at the Piazza della Liberta, where Lazio fans meet each year to celebrate the club's birthday. The founding members drew their inspiration from the Olympic Games in Athens in 1896 and had the Greek flag in mind when they settled upon light blue in the team's colours.
Lazio started out as general sports club engaged in over 30 disciplines, with the football section opening in 1902 before earning official status in 1910, making Lazio the sixth oldest outfit in Italy.
The very first Rome derby was won by Roma on 8 December 1929 at the Campo Rondinella, Rodolfo Volk firing in the only goal of the game. Lazio had to wait until 23 October 1932 to celebrate their own first success, a 2-1 victory earned courtesy of strikes by Alejandro Demaria and Jose Castelli.
Facts and figures
Although these encounters tend to be very tight affairs, Roma boast by far the better head-to-head record in league meetings, having recorded 44 wins to Lazio's 33, with 54 draws. The Giallorossi also have the upper hand when other competitions are taken into account, with their 58 triumphs comparing favourably to Lazio's 44 and the other 60 outings ended in stalemate. In those games, Roma have outscored their traditional rivals by 196 goals to 157.
Roma possess the record for the longest run of derby victories as well, thanks to a run of five wins between 30 October 1958 and 13 October 1960 in which they conceded just one goal. That sequence of results read: 3-1, 3-0, 3-0, 1-0 and 4-0. The first derby held at the Stadio Olimpico took place on 29 November 1953, when honours were left even following a 1-1 draw.
Among their other records, Roma can likewise lay claim to the biggest wins both home and away, with the former a 5-0 success in the 1933/34 campaign and latter a 5-1 victory on 11 March 2002.
Tales of derbies past
On 11 March 1956, a fierce snowstorm forced a derby encounter to be postponed, the first time anything of the sort had occurred in the history of football in the capital. Lazio eventually won the rescheduled fixture 1-0 on 4 April that same year, once the sun had returned.
Swedish striker Arne Bengt Selmosson is the only player to have registered in the derby for both teams, having been on Lazio's books from 1955 to 1958 before turning out for their eternal foes from 1958 to 1961. Roma's Vincenzo Montella is the only player to have managed four goals in one game, achieving that unique feat in the 5-1 victory on 11 March 2002.
Talismanic Roma captain Francesco Totti has contested 30 Rome derbies, an individual record, but he has also been on the losing side more times than anyone else, with 11 defeats to his name. It is unlikely, but he may take consolation from the fact that he leads that list ahead of the equally legendary Silvio Piola, who suffered ten losses.
"I played lots of derbies in Milan, Madrid and London, but it's in Rome that the passion for the derby is strongest," says Christian Panucci.
The rivalry today
Despite finishing second behind Inter Milan in the last two seasons, Roma experienced a difficult start to the current campaign, but they have been gradually climbing the standings of late. They now lie sixth on 49 points, five points out of the last UEFA Champions League berth. Returning to Europe's premier club competition is vital for the club's finances and failure to do so could result in the sale of many big names.
Lazio have traced the opposite path, meanwhile. Having spent a long time amid the European places, they now find themselves eight points behind Roma ahead of Saturday's derby, in which they will be the nominal home side at the Stadio Olimpico.