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Rome, the beating heart and capital of Italy, warmly welcomes nearly three million tourists annually. Within this vibrant city, two fervently supported yet historically starved football clubs reside.

Lazio and Roma have persistently dwelled in the shadow of their more illustrious counterparts, AC Milan, Internazionale, and Juventus. Nevertheless, their presence is undeniable. The Derby della Capitale remains a perennial highlight in the football calendar, continuing to captivate fans and enthusiasts alike.

Yet silverware is difficult to come by for both, albeit Jose Mourinho led Roma to Conference League success last year, their first European trophy.

Rome’s blue and white half are back in the Champions League as they prepare to visit Celtic on match day two in Group E with both looking for their first victory in this season’s competition. It’s a key fixture, even in the infancy of this section.

One man who knows the inner sanctum of the Roman clubs is Sven-Goran Eriksson, who managed both and led Lazio to their best days.

Before being seduced by the England job, Eriksson guided I Biancocelesti through a golden period around the turn of the century. In the 1990s, during which the likes of Paul Gascoigne and Beppe Signori starred for the club, it looked like they would join the behemoths from Milan and Turin in the winners’ enclosure, yet it did not happen. Until Eriksson arrived that is.

Taking his trusted Sampdoria lieutenant Roberto Mancini along for the ride, the Swede came agonisingly close to winning the club’s second title in 1999, before losing out to Milan on the final day. The pain subsided though as he delivered their first European honour, the last edition of the Cup Winners’ Cup, as they defeated Real Mallorca at Villa Park.

Lazio followed that up a few months later with Super Cup success against Champions League winners Manchester United, after which Sir Alex Ferguson tipped them to finally win the Scudetto for the first time since 1974.

They duly did and, as if to exorcise the ghosts of the year before, did so on the final day as rivals Juventus surprisingly lost to Perugia. They would go on to lift the Coppa Italia to win their first and, so far, only double.

The likes of Juan Sebastian Veron, Alessandro Nesta, Pavel Nedved, Diego Simeone and Marcelo Salas all weighed in as the unfashionable and, at times, controversial Lazio gathered silverware.

It all ended almost as quickly as it arrived, with the squad disbanded and Eriksson departing for England. Three Italian Cups is all they have to show for their efforts in the subsequent more than two decades.

Current coach Maurizio Sarri, best remembered in the UK for his brief Europa League-winning tenure at Chelsea, led Lazio to their best league finish since the 2000 title as they finished distant runners-up to Napoli, who created their own history last season.

Celtic vs. Lazio: Lazio Struggling in Serie A But Boasting Abundant Talent

However, a poor start to this campaign has left them 16th in Serie A after seven matches.

After a 2-0 loss at Milan at the weekend, Sarri was not slow to criticise the state of his squad in the wake of what he deemed a poor summer window. Given the club’s owner, Claudio Lotito, had declared himself happy with their transfer business, it would appear he is at odds with the man who picks those players ahead of their trip to Glasgow.

So will that aid Celtic, who beat Lazio home and away in the Europa League in 2019?

Serbian midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic played in both of those games but left this summer for Al Hilal.

Cover arrived with Matteo Guendozi on loan from Marseille and talented Italy under-21 Nicolo Rovella, who was borrowed from Juventus but with an option to buy.

Japan international Daichi Kamada was signed from Eintracht Frankfurt. He was among the scorers in the penalty shoot-out victory over Rangers in the 2022 Europa League final.

Nicolo Casale and Alessio Romagnoli are an excellent centre-back pairing, who performed to great effect last season.

Serial winner Pedro is still going at the age of 36, having crossed the Rome divide in 2021. The winger has scored once against Celtic in three Champions League victories for Barcelona, but also started when the Catalans were famously toppled in Glasgow in 2012.

And then there’s another old campaigner up front, skipper and Euro 2020 winner Ciro Immobile, who scored against Celtic in Rome four years ago and whose goal record for Lazio is superb – almost 200 in 300 appearances.

While the threats are evident, Celtic’s manager Brendan Rodgers will be eager to seize the opportunity presented by an underperforming and discontented team that pales in comparison to Eriksson’s historic squad.

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