Juventus host struggling Roma looking to capitalise on a potential slip by embattled Napoli that could see the Old Lady snatch the lead of Serie A for the first time this season.
Juve’s catastrophic start is well behind them and the champions moved up to second at just two points behind Napoli after registering their 10th consecutive league win in a 4-0 rout of Udinese last weekend.
And the Turin giants will be looking to cash in on the hangover Napoli have suffered since their coach, Maurizio Sarri, was caught on camera in a homophobic rant at Inter Milan counterpart Roberto Mancini following Inter’s Italian Cup quarter-final win in midweek.
Sarri on Thursday was hit with a two-game Cup ban and a 20,000-euro fine, and although his players have rallied behind him, rivals teams will be all too ready to pounce.
Sampdoria’s flamboyant president Massimo Ferrero, for one, has already fanned the flames, hitting out at the leniency of Sarri’s sanction in comparison to his own punishment for disparaging remarks aimed at Inter Milan chief Erick Thohir.
In 2014, Thohir, who is from Indonesia, was labelled a “slant-eyed baby doll” and a “Filipino” by Ferrero, a film producer who never misses a chance to snatch his share of the spotlight.
Speaking to Sampdoria TV, Ferrero said: “It’s like my old grandfather used to say: two weights, two measures. I made a geographical mistake and I got a heavy sentence.
“He (Sarri) said a lot more and got two games. What is happening?”
Ferrero added: “On Sunday, we’ll take the game to them because when the lads decide they want to win a game, we can beat anybody.”
Sampdoria have lost their last two outings, at home to Juventus and away to Carpi, but the Genoa-based club fancy their chances.
Sarri has been through the ringer in the past few days, prompting the league leaders’ Brazilian midfielder Jorginho to stand up in the 57-year-old Italian’s defence.
“He (Sarri) is a decent man and it’s not fair to hammer him relentlessly like this,” said Jorginho.
“We’re all behind the coach. He apologised, and we’ve all moved on, the most important thing now is Sampdoria.”
Napoli’s off-field troubles could turn in Juve’s favour, days after the league and Cup champions booked their place in the semi-finals of the Cup thanks to a 1-0 win over Lazio.
Massimiliano Allegri’s men will aim to make it 11 wins in succession at home to a Roma side that was held to a 1-1 draw by still-winless basement side Verona in the capital last week in Luciano Spalletti’s first game back in charge.
“It will be a tough game,” said Allegri. “But we’re going through a positive period, and we want to keep it going.”
Roma have slipped to fifth at nine points behind Napoli, striker Edin Dzeko is struggling to score and fleet-footed Ivorian forward Gervinho is rumoured to be on his way out.
Hardly the ideal situation ahead of a visit to Juventus.
“Every time we play for Juventus we should be prepared to spit blood to honour this jersey,” said Juve defender Leonardo Bonucci.
Inter, four points adrift in third place, host struggling Carpi at the San Siro looking for their first win in three games having suffered a shock defeat to Sassuolo and drawn at Atalanta in their past two outings.
Third-from-bottom Carpi have four wins in 20 games, but Mancini insisted: “Carpi are going well and we’ll need to show desire and a competitive edge.”
Elsewhere, AC Milan travel to Empoli on Saturday looking to build on last week’s 2-0 win over Fiorentina, who host Torino in Sunday’s early game.
Fixtures (times GMT)
Frosinone v Atalanta (1700), Empoli v AC Milan (1945)
Fiorentina v Torino (1130), Verona v Genoa, Inter Milan v Carpi, Lazio v Chievo, Palermo v Udinese, Sampdoria v Napoli, Sassuolo v Bologna (all 1400), Juventus v Roma (1945)
– Agence France-Presse