MILAN – Eusebio Di Francesco believes drawing Liverpool in the Champions League semi-finals is "destiny", more than three decades after the Reds stunned Roma on penalties to lift the 1984 European Cup.
"Roma fans have been waiting 34 years for this match. It was destiny," said Di Francesco, whose side stunned Barcelona in the second leg of their quarter-final to secure their first semi-final in the competition since 1984, when Liverpool beat them in the final.
"We're up against a strong side, it won't be easy, but I welcome the draw. Fate has brought us to the semi-finals. I hope it will lead us further.
"But beforehand we have three very important games ahead of us, starting with the derby," added Di Francesco. On Sunday bitter rivals Lazio host Roma in their shared Stadio Olimpico ground.
It was a crazy week in Europe for the sides from the capital.
Roma produced one of the greatest European comebacks – recovering from a 4-1 first leg deficit to eliminate Barcelona on Tuesday with a stunning 3-0 success in the second leg.
But two days later Lazio – who took a 4-2 lead into the second leg of the Europa League game against Salzburg – to crash 6-5 on aggregate.
Sunday's game could be key for Roma and Lazio's Champions League ambitions next season, with both joint third in Serie A level on 60 points with seven games to play.
Juventus and Napoli are locked in the top spots, with Inter Milan one point behind Roma and Lazio in fifth before visiting Atalanta later Saturday. The top four teams advance to the Champions League next season.
"It's worth more than three points, a place in the Champions League and the history around it," said Di Francesco, whose side won 2-1 in the last Serie A meeting last November.
"Of course, I hope it's an advantage that we won and Lazio lost midweek, but the fact is everything around it will be wiped out, because that's what happens in a derby."
Lazio are Serie A's top scorers, with 75 goals in 31 games – compared to Roma's 50 – with Ciro Immobile the top scorer with 27.
"It's a very important game that is worth a great deal for the table and comes two days after a huge disappointment," said Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi.
"I'm convinced this sort of let-down can help us to grow and we can start proving that from tomorrow.
"The derby is the best game for a player, because he can hear the chants and the energy from the stands."