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Totti out to ‘destroy’ Lazio in what could be his last derby

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MILAN (AP) Roma great Francesco Totti is out to “destroy” Lazio in what could be his last derby.

Totti’s contract runs out at the end of the season and the 40-year-old forward is likely to retire and move upstairs into a director’s role at the club where he has spent his entire career.

“It’s a different match to all the others,” Totti said. “It’s a team you always try to destroy on the field but with the maximum respect.

“For the city, for the curva, for the fans, you always try to give 101 percent. It’s a match you always want to win.”

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Roma won the last derby 3-2 last month but still lost to Lazio in the two-legged Italian Cup semifinals. Totti played less than 10 minutes in each match.

That semifinal defeat still hurts Roma and its fans, which are likely to fill the Stadio Olimpico again after ending a 14-month protest following the removal of deeply unpopular security barriers.

“It will be like all the other derbies, a must-win match,” Totti said. “It’s important because we all remember how the last one finished. We have to get our revenge.”

Sunday’s match is also crucial for the battle for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the group stage of the Champions League.

Roma is currently second, four points ahead of Napoli, which visits Inter Milan on Sunday. The team which finishes third has to go into a playoff for Europe’s premier club competition.

Roma has a more difficult run-in than Napoli. After the derby, it next faces AC Milan and Juventus before ending its season against Chievo Verona and Genoa. Napoli plays Cagliari, Torino, Fiorentina and Sampdoria.

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“It will be a very important derby for the standings and we will try everything to have a great game to bring home the three points,” Totti said. “We are going through this battle for second serenely and calmly, also because now we have a four-point advantage on them.

“There are only a few matches left until the end of the season, even if three out of five are very difficult on paper. We will try everything to finish second.”

Lazio is fourth, seven points behind Napoli.

Totti has been playing for Roma for 25 years – remarkably more than 28 percent of the club’s existence – since making his debut in the final stages of a 2-0 win at Brescia on March 28, 1993.

Totti, who also won the World Cup with Italy in 2006, could have won more than the solitary Serie A title, two Italian Cups and two national Super Cups he claimed with Roma, but he rejected offers of more money and glory to remain with his childhood club.

His face adorns murals and posters across Italy’s capital, where he is loved by Roma fans and respected by supporters of Lazio, despite his antics against them.

Totti has scored 11 times against Lazio and often celebrates these extra-special goals with T-shirts made for the occasion. One famously said, “I have purged you again,” while he revealed another reading simply “Game Over” after a victory in May 2015.

He hit the headlines in January of that year when he scored the second of two goals against Lazio and, in a pre-planned celebration for becoming the all-time leading scorer in the derby, grabbed his phone off Roma’s goalkeeping coach and took a selfie under the Curva Sud with thousands of adoring fans in the background.

In the Eternal City, Totti is Roma’s eternal leader – first made captain in 1998 when he was only 22.

Nike alluded to his “King of Rome” nickname at a promotional event on Wednesday to unveil new gold-colored boots to mark the Roma captain’s 25 years at the club.

Totti, who was greeted by about 200 chanting fans, was instructed to sit on a throne with the steps leading up to it bearing the names of the seven kings of ancient Rome, with his name placed on the final step.

“I have nothing to do with these kings,” Totti said. “I prefer to be judged than to judge.”

Watch Live: Southampton vs. Bournemouth (Lineups, Stream)

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Bournemouth looks for its first ever away derby win when it visits St. Mary’s for a battle with Southampton on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. EDT on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

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St. Mary’s is the scene for Saturday’s late tilt, and Southampton has seen eight home wins and four draws in the 64-year history of the rivalry.

The Cherries and Saints are level on 33 points, though Bournemouth has played two more matches. Howe’s men are looking to build on their first consecutive PL wins in a year.

LINEUPS

Southampton: Forster; Cedric, Stephens, Yoshida, Bertrand; Romeu, Davis, Ward-Prowse, Tadic, Redmond, Rodriguez. Subs: Hassen, Caceres, McQueen, Clasie, Hojbjerg, Boufal, Long.

Bournemouth: Boruc; Smith, Francis, Cook, Daniels; Fraser, Surman, Gosling, Pugh, King, Afobe. Subs: Allsop, Cargill, Smith, Arter, Ibe, Wilshere, Stanislas.

The Premier League has its newest member: Queens Park Rangers

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Congratulations, Queens Park Rangers, on your promotion to the Premier League! QPR beat Derby County in the Championship Playoff Final, with Bobby Zamora putting a 90th minute goal past a diving Lee Grant.

This means (as of now) there will be quite a few familiar faces returning to the first division: Joey Barton. Bobby Zamora. Richard Dunne. Rob Green. And, of course, Harry Rednapp.

Most neutrals were displeased with the result, however. In the first half, Derby had a penalty appeal waved away, then shortly thereafter, Dunne wasn’t punished after committing a handball.

It’s not the officiating as much as the desire to have a new face in the Premier League – or at least, to not have Queens Park Rangers returning after just a year away. Many are unimpressed by QPR, who have a hefty wage bill and play a style of football that doesn’t appeal to many watchers. Derby, however, haven’t been in the top flight since 2007-2008, when they set a record…of scoring the least points in the Premier League, with just 11.

Six years later, and such cursed form hit Derby once more. The Rams seemed comfortably on top in the final 30 minutes, after Gary O’Neil was sent off for bringing down Johnny Russell as the forward went free on goal. Green was up to the challenge, saving anything Derby sent his way, but QPR weren’t making much of their rare attacks.

Then, in the 90th minute, a defensive error from Richard Keogh put the ball right at Zamora’s toes. The 33-year-old wasted no time firing in his left-footed shot – and putting QPR back into the Premier League. To their credit though, the goal was sublime, and it will be interesting to see what adjustments they make for the upcoming season.

QPR joins Leicester City, who won the Championship title with two games to spare, and Burnley, who comfortably took second, in being promoted for the 2014-2015 season.