A point is progress. After being overrun in the opening stages of the second stanza by an irresistible Inter, Roma showed spirit to claim a 2-2 draw at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.
That qualifies as a step in the right direction given La Lupa’s struggles against the big boys under Paulo Fonseca, especially with the Derby della Capitale looming on the horizon.
That massive match means so much for both sides, and Lazio will be desperate to get the win that keeps them on the coattails of the top four contenders.
Roma are already well-placed in that race, and they can take heart from their furious fightback against the Nerazzurri.
Another setback against a member of the Serie A aristocracy would have been catastrophic, especially as it would have fit into a pattern of sketchy second half displays this campaign. La Lupa have a goal difference of -4 after halftime, which stands in stark contrast to their sparkling displays in first periods (+18 goal difference).
That tendency to take their foot off the gas led to heavy defeats in Naples and Bergamo, while 10-man Juventus salvaged a stalemate at the Olimpico in September.
Even relegation-threatened trio Torino, Cagliari and Crotone were allowed back into games that should have already been done and dusted. In that context, the comeback against Antonio Conte’s men represented a role reversal.
Gianluca Mancini’s late header could be a turning point, but Roma would already have been dead and buried were it not for an unlikely hero.
Pau Lopez has been lambasted for a series of shaky showings since moving to the Eternal City from Real Betis in the summer of 2019, but the Spanish shot-stopper stood on his head against Inter.
The 26-year old made spectacular stops on Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martínez, with his save on the Argentinean hitman particularly impressive.
He’s still a long way from justifying an eye-watering €23.5 million price tag, but those parries will do the Girona-born goalkeeper’s confidence a world of good in the lead up to a match that brings up bad memories on a personal level.
An egregious Lopez error allowed Francesco Acerbi to level for Lazio last January in an eventual 1-1 draw, and that mistake sent his team into a tailspin from which they never recovered.
Roma fell from 4th place after a 4-2 defeat to Sassuolo the following weekend and ended up finishing eight points behind the Biancocelesti in the fight for the final Champions League spot.
Avoiding a similar collapse will be at the forefront of Fonseca’s mind, and a first Derby success since September 2018 would go a long way to achieving that aim.
La Lupa’s next away day is not until February 6 against Juventus, and they have an opportunity to build momentum before that tricky trip to Turin.
After the Lazio showdown, winnable league duels with Spezia and Hellas Verona are on the docket. With the likes of Atalanta and The Old Lady beginning to find form behind them, there is little room for error in the Champions League chase.