Jose Mourinho said it is ‘a privilege to experience what it means to play the Rome Derby’ against Lazio and is still smarting at Roma captain Lorenzo Pellegrini’s ban.
It kicks off on Sunday at 17.00 UK time (16.00 GMT).
The former Inter, Manchester United, Porto and Tottenham Hotspur manager was told this will be his 120th Derby, the first in Rome.
“I only knew about the 1,000th game thanks to you in the media telling me,” shrugged Mourinho in his press conference.
“Derbies are wonderful for a coach, because he doesn’t have to worry about motivating anyone or checking for concentration levels. It was more worrying preparing for Udinese, but with a derby, everyone is 100 per cent in the game.
“We play to win, even if we cannot always win, and are facing a side with our same ambitions. What I want is for my lads to leave the field knowing they’ve given everything.
“It is a privilege for me to experience what it means to play the Rome Derby, but I also want my team to have ambitions that go beyond the derby. It isn’t our only objective of the season.”
Lorenzo Pellegrini is suspended after a harsh second yellow card for jumping with elbow raised, and unlike in the Premier League, Serie A does not have a mechanism to appeal against a double booking.
The good news is that Matias Vina is back from injury and is expected to start.
“There is only one Pellegrini. I didn’t want to talk about this, but I have to. Having Pellegrini is one thing, not having him is another. He has leadership, he is a fine captain, but he’s not there. The referee did something stupid, but what’s the point of arguing?
“You want to ask who will play instead of him, but I will not tell you.”
He had a similar approach to a question about Lazio’s high press under Maurizio Sarri.
“That is a good question, but it is the type I don’t like to answer, because it would give too much away. I’ll just say that we defend without the ball and when we have to ball, we want to score.”
Roma were a surprise career move for Mourinho and he has called it a challenge.
“It’s a different challenge, but a challenge, no doubt. When we talked for the first time, I had no doubts from the first minute. We know where we are, where we want to be and how we want to get there.
“I worked at clubs before where there were doubts. Here there are no doubts. It is not the most difficult squad to work with, but it is my most difficult challenge.”
The Portuguese tactician said he was won over by the reaction of the fans after their defeat to Hellas Verona.
“That made me realise there is a real empathy here. After a victory, that feeling can be artificial and it goes once there is a negative result, but instead we lost and didn’t play well, but felt the fans were behind us.”
Mourinho finished the press conference with a word for Roma youth team player Nicola Zalewski, whose father died of cancer yesterday.
“It is his decision whether or not to be in the squad tomorrow. We are all with him and it’s important he decides how and when to start living with a world without his father.”
— pagineromaniste.com (@PagineRomaniste) September 25, 2021