Il Tempo (Adriano Serafini) In the old days, there was a derby that you could start to feel well before the referee’s whistle sounded to start the match in front of an always packed Olimpico. It’s a distant memory now, considering the rapid decline in attendances in recent years and the number of fans expected to watch the stracittadina next Sunday. It’s unlikely that it will break the record for the lowest attendance of all time, a sad record that was achieved last April when just over 23,000 fans ‘filled’ the stands to watch Spalletti’s Roma win 4-1. But expectations are not high, at least for the Giallorossi. Roma fans don’t seem to have changed their minds, even though they are 2nd in the league and closed the gap on Juventus this week, as only 3,000 or so tickets have been bought for the ‘away’ game against their Biancocelesti rivals.
Roma have probably never seen a lower amount of tickets sold the week before the most important game of the Roman footballing calendar. They will hope to turn things around in the next few days, which is possible but remains unlikely. Even so, they will face overwhelming numbers of Lazio supporters in the stands at the Olimpico even if they achieve their most optimistic hopes of reaching a figure of around 7,000-8,000 fans. Although there are no precise figures (Lotito’s club haven’t disclosed the number of tickets sold), judging by the turnout at the various ticket offices across the city so far an estimated 11,000 tickets have been sold which, together with the 10,000 season ticket holders, will give Lazio an entirely different sort of support during the game.
This is also down to the decision made by the hardcore supporters of the Curva Nord, who intend to carry on supporting the team at the ground after their protests and abandonment of their seats last season. However, it’s almost certain that the Giallorossi ultras will stay at home, united in their ‘battle’ against the safety measures implemented in the Stadio Olimpico. While their absence is enforced, it cannot completely explain the very low expected Giallorossi turnout, which has forced the club to start selling their allocation of tickets one sector at a time. It’s currently expected that, like last year, half of the Curva Sud (already divided by the hated barriers) and the Tribuna Tevere’s Distinti Sud sectors will be closed. Barring any last-minute rushes to buy tickets, the majority of the Giallorossi support will be in the Distinti Sud area of the Tribuna Monte Mario, which is by now the norm for Roma this season.
Around 30,000 fans are (optimistically) expected for the derby, creating fewer problems for the security forces who are due to meet on Thursday to set out their safety procedures for the match. The suggestion of bringing the game forward to a 12.30 kick off [11.30 UK time] was shelved due to the predicted low turnout, as this will substantially reduce the chances of the two sets of fans clashing in the hours after the game. In the meantime, Roma and Lazio fans will be hoping to create a bit of derby atmosphere at their teams’ training sessions this week. While it has already been decided that the doors will be opened to Formello for Thursday’s training session, different options are being explored at Trigoria, one of which would be to host a training session at Tre Fontane. Just like in the old days.