Francesco Totti asks Roma fans to return to Stadio Olimpico vs. Lazio

Roma's Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Florenzi have appealed to Giallorossi fans to return to the Stadio Olimpico for the derby with Lazio on Sunday.

Crowd numbers have dwindled for both clubs in recent years as fan groups on both sides protest the decision to decide their respective Curva Nord and Curva Sud in half for security reasons.

Lazio sold just 11 season tickets on the opening day of sale in the summer, although they did not publish the total figure they sold, which is not believed to be any higher than 4,000. Roma sold more, but their hardcore fans continue to boycott their home games with the Olimpico rarely even half full in recent times.

The Olimpico was deserted for the last derby in April, but Roma's players hope things will change this time, when they are nominally the away team.

"We want them back, like old times," Totti said, as he and his two teammates attended an event to honour a lifelong Roma fan who has passed away.

De Rossi added: "We hope that we can have a Curva like we used to have as soon as possible."

The event took place in Tor di Quinto, the area where Roma hope to build a new stadium of their own in the next few years. The fans are likely to return when the new arena opens, but Florenzi says he would like a taste of what his teammates were used to when they were his age.

"Daniele and Francesco have experienced the most beautiful Curva when there were many fans," he said, reports Il Corriere dello Sport. "I got here late and I've been penalised.

"Let's hope things sort themselves out so we can have our fans close to us again because we all know how important they are."

The head of the Italian Olympic Committee, Giovanni Malago, hopes that both sets of fans turn out en masse for the Eternal City derby.

"Of course it's not a great advert for the city of Roma, given the stature, the media interest and also the importance of this game between two sides so high up in the table [if fans do not turn up]," he said.

"Last night I spoke to Daniele De Rossi, who never talks rubbish, and he also cites the Lazio fans in addition to the Roma fans and he is used to playing in a derby when there was an atmosphere; when there was the pride and excellence of these fan groups.

"It's a bit of a strange moment and, objectively, it's absurd. I've tried to do what I can to make a contribution, trying to accelerate what seems to be what everybody wants. I just hope this situation resolves itself as soon as possible because honestly, all of this, both for Roma and Lazio fans, is not nice."

Fourth-placed Lazio could potentially leapfrog second-placed Roma, whom they trail them by just a point.