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banner Friday, 27 April, 2001, 12:51 GMT 13:51 UK
Rome giants in title crunch
AS Roma playmaker Francesco Totti
Totti relishing challenge of the Rome derby
Lazio v Roma
Kick-off at 2030 GMT on Sunday 29 April

Rome is preparing itself for one of the most fiercely contested derby matches in recent years when AS Roma and Lazio come face to face in the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday night.

With Roma in first-place and defending champions Lazio seven points behind in third, the outcome of the game may prove decisive as to who lands this year's Scudetto.

Roma's pivotal playmaker Francesco Totti knows how important the match is to the club and the fans.


I'm ready to do anything, to grit my teeth if I have to be able to play...it's the most important match of my career
  Francesco Totti

And the 24-year-old - who grew up a die-hard supporter of the team in the capital's Porta Metronia neighbourhood - is ready to play through the pain barrier to make the game.

Totti twisted his ankle in the final practice before the Italian national team's friendly match against South Africa on Wednesday.

"I'm ready to do anything, to grit my teeth if I have to be able to play," he said. "It's the most important match of my career, and I don't even want to think about missing it."

Unlike last year when there was only one team in the hunt for the championship, both Lazio and Roma have been talking about the title since day one.

Lazio's Diego Simeone has said the club cannot play for a draw against their Roman rivals if they hope for a repeat crown.

"We have only one result at our disposition Sunday night, a victory," he said. "In one week, everything can change."

Lazio's Diego Simeone
Simeone: A must-win game for Lazio
A Lazio win would light a fire under the Serie A standings.

Second-place Juventus, six points behind Roma and one ahead of Lazio, host a struggling Lecce squad on Sunday afternoon.

And the following week, the Turin club hosts Roma in the second of a crucial two-game stretch.

As for the possible absence in the Rome derby of Totti, Roma coach Fabio Capello is considering playing Japan's Hidetoshi Nakata, who made his first start in several months, in last week's 3-1 win at Udinese.

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