Roma hit by Juan blow ahead of derby
Already shorn of captain Francesco Totti, Roma will also be without Brazilian centre-half Juan for Sunday's Rome derby against Lazio.
And with Lazio riding high, four points clear at the top of the table while Roma languish in ninth, the city's sky blue team is seem by many as the favourites. But that's not the view of Roma boss Claudio Ranieri, buoyed by his team's 3-2 success in Basel in the UEFA Champions League in midweek.
"There's no difference between us and them, we're talking about two teams challenging at the top," he said. "Right now Lazio are ahead but we'll see where they finish up."
Lazio come into the game on the back of five straight wins and no defeats since the opening day of the season. Roma on the other hand have been inconsistent all season long, have yet to win away in the league and two weeks ago suffered a humiliating 3-1 home defeat to Basel in the Champions League - they will be the nominal away team at the Stadio Olimpico ground the two sides share.
Roma have only one point from four away games this season, although they have won their last three home encounters in this stadium following two successive draws at the beginning of the campaign. But Ranieri insists he is not worried.
"We have no fear, just respect. I believe each team gets what they deserve so if they're top, it means they earnt it. But time will tell if it's a straw fire (false dawn), we'll try to give them fire."
Come rain or shine, Lazio will be still be top of Serie A at full-time, but Ranieri denied that this would relieve any pressure on Edy Reja's team.
"They know that sooner or later they will lose and their fear is to lose against us, they're the ones under pressure," he said. "Lazio have good players, they're in good form and Reja is an excellent coach, so we'll be careful about everyone and we'll try to play a perfect match."
For Roma, it's an important game to try to ignite their own title chances, which look bleak given they sit ten points behind Lazio and six off champions Inter Milan.
"We're in the process of rediscovering our true selves in the mist of a thousand problems, that's a sign that the players care about the shirt and the fans," said Ranieri. The time has come to end our negative run and win away from home in the league."
Reja raring to go
While they may be without Totti and Juan, there was some good news as Nicolas Burdisso has been passed fit and should partner Frenchman Philippe Mexes at the heart of the defence. Reja, meanwhile, insisted he was calm ahead of the game.
"Even if it doesn't show, I'm really up for this game. But I don't live with worries," he said. "Here in Rome, everyone's talking about it, five million people are involved.
"My role is to keep my players calm, I don't want to see angst on the pitch. Derbies are strange, they depend on your appraoch and incidents. But we know that we can beat anyone and we'll play knowing that we can do that."
Even without Totti up front, Reja believes Roma still have a plethora of attacking weapons at their disposal.
"They have important qualities, (Mirko) Vucinic is in top form, (Marco) Borriello can always create problems as can (Jeremy) Menez.
"We have a strong character but we also have to take stock and build for the future, a team like ours must always finish in the top six in Serie A and I believe we're on the right path to doing so."