Lazio meet eternal rivals Roma under Friday night lights at Stadio Olimpico, as the much-awaited first Derby della Capitale of the season takes centre stage.
Nominally the home side at a ground the clubs share, the Biancocelesti warmed up for their biggest game of the Serie A season with back-to-back wins, while Roma held Scudetto contenders Inter Milan to a draw last week.
One of the fiercest encounters in Calcio, the Derby di Roma is traditionally host to extraordinarily intense displays of adoration and loathing from both sets of tifosi alike.
However, in the current climate of an all-pervading pandemic, Lazio look to reduce their historical derby deficit without assistance from the notorious Curva Nord.
Having won 38 Serie A meetings to Roma's 54, Simone Inzaghi's current team are behind in terms of both precedent and league placing, as they sit eighth in the table - with the Giallorossi riding high in third.
To close the six-point gap between them, Lazio will need to secure a third win on the spin, having followed a year-opening draw at Genoa with successive victories over Fiorentina and Parma.
Against a dire Gialloblu outfit, under new management after Fabio Liverani's long-expected sacking, Inzaghi's men took until the second half to make their supremacy pay, as they continue to play catch-up with the other top-four contenders ahead of them following a shaky start to the season.
A second goal in two games for underrated striker Felipe Caicedo - who can be relied upon as a goal threat particularly from the bench - sealed the deal at the Tardini and the well-travelled Ecuadorian could prove a key protagonist if called upon to start alongside last term's Capocannoniere Ciro Immobile up front.
Lazio president Claudio Lotito and Azzurri star Immobile were honoured to meet Rome's most famous resident, Pope Francis, in a private audience last weekend, to mark the 121st anniversary of the club's foundation.
Perhaps they will offer a prayer that the fervent San Lorenzo fan's blessing could help them edge their bitterest rivals on Friday.
The Giallorossi - after an entertaining 2-2 draw against Inter, which could equally be interpreted either as a point saved or an opportunity squandered - look for a first major victory of the Serie A season, as they seek to shrug off claims that they are incapable of beating the big boys.
Also keen not to lose ground on the Milan clubs in a title race for which they remain dark horses, Roma will be doubly keen to defeat their oldest foes and stretch their current points advantage on the Aquile.
In their sixth straight draw against Inter, Paulo Fonseca's side were indebted to the increasingly impressive Gonzalo Villar, who picked out the determined leap of defender Gianluca Mancini for Roma's late equaliser.
With a sky-high pass completion rate and ever-growing confidence as a starter, young Villar has steadily built upon his Europa League opportunities to become a mainstay in the first XI.
Though his absence has not been felt too keenly, given the creative capabilities of Villar and Lorenzo Pellegrini, former Barcelona and Chelsea star Pedro returned to training this week and his possible presence would give Fonseca and company a real boost on Friday.
Injured since the turn of the year, Pedro hopes to play at least a cameo role in his first ever capital clash, and he could prove the perfect ace up the coach's sleeve as Roma chase a first success against Lazio since September 2018.
Last season, when Roma ultimately trailed in well behind their Olimpico co-tenants in the Serie A standings, both clashes ended 1-1. So a conquering Roman hero is called upon to break the deadlock this time around, in the inimitable Derby della Capitale.
Lazio Serie A form: DWLDWW
Roma Serie A form: WLWWWD
Lazio should have forward Joaquin Correa back in the fold on Friday, so it remains to be seen whether he will start ahead of stand-in striker Felipe Caicedo next to Ciro Immobile in Simone Inzaghi's customary 3-5-2 formation.
Long-term absentee, captain Senad Lulic, is nearing a full recovery but is not yet fit to start, while fellow wing-back Mohamed Fares is struggling with a calf injury.
Inzaghi must do without Thomas Strakosha due to a thigh injury, so Pepe Reina again deputises in goal. In midfield, Lucas Leiva, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Luis Alberto should comprise a dynamic central three.
Roma's Paulo Fonseca eagerly awaits updates on the recovery of Pedro, but the former Spain winger is certainly not fit to start, so Lorenzo Pellegrini and in-form Henrikh Mkhitaryan will begin behind Edin Dzeko.
Experienced goalkeeper Antonio Mirante remains out injured, so error-prone Pau Lopez - linked with a move to West Ham United in midweek - will be the Giallorossi's last line of defence.
In midfield, Gonzalo Villar is still preferred to Bryan Cristante to partner Jordan Veretout, with fellow ex-La Liga aces Borja Mayoral and Carles Perez available to bolster the attack from the bench.
Lazio possible starting lineup:
Reina; Felipe, Radu, Acerbi; Lazzari, Milinkovic-Savic, Leiva, Alberto, Marusic; Caicedo, Immobile
Roma possible starting lineup:
Lopez; Ibanez, Smalling, Mancini; Karsdorp, Veretout, Cristante, Spinazzola; Pellegrini, Mkhitaryan; Dzeko
Source: Sports Mole / Jonathan O'Shea