Lazio coach Vladimir Petkovic has told his side they have nothing to fear when they take on Napoli in the Serie A on Saturday.
After suffering two straight league losses, Lazio have slipped six points behind second-placed Napoli, who are three adrift of Juventus.
Petkovic said his men had a chance to prove they are genuine title contenders with a win at the Stadio Olimpico.
“Am I afraid of Napoli? No, there’s only one thing in life we should be afraid of,” he said on Friday.
“This is a game and we need to take it as a game. We will have the chance to have fun and face a very strong opponent such as Napoli that everyone considers the alternative favourite to win the Scudetto.
“We want to prove we are not the third team but that we are closer to the first two teams in the fight for the Scudetto.”
Petkovic was unwilling to talk up the importance of the encounter, but – with less than half the season remaining – said it was a big chance to close the gap to second spot.
“I don’t know if it will be the match of the season or not for us. We’ve already done a lot and we have a lot to do ahead of us,” he said.
“It’s surely a very important point of the season for us. If we win tomorrow we will have the chance to get closer to the first two teams again and have all the chances to remain there on the top with the other two.”
The meeting with Napoli is the first of three matches in 10 days for Lazio, with their Europa League campaign resuming next week at Borussia Moenchengladbach.
But Petkovic has no concerns about his team’s fitness, citing their run to the Coppa Italia final as proof they can compete regularly.
“I don’t see my team physically and mentally in trouble. We surely were conditioned by some episodes in the recent games we played, but I see my team alive,” he said.
“They have proved that in Coppa Italia too. I’m confident. I almost haven’t seen the guys over this week. Today was the first day we trained all together.”