Roma’s Serie A title hopes come under the spotlight when Rudi Garcia’s men visit struggling Verona on Sunday with a likely 10-point deficit to leaders and champions Juventus.
Juventus, who boast a seven-point lead at the top of Italy’s top flight, host Atalanta on Friday, four days before the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at home to Borussia Dortmund.
Atalanta have won only five games this season so are not expected to hand Juventus a first home reverse this season, but the Turin club’s coach Massimiliano Allegri has warned against complacency.
“It’s as though we’ve already wrapped up the league title, which I don’t believe is true,” Allegri said on Thursday.
“We’re a few points ahead of Roma but there are still plenty of matches to play. The title race is far from over.”
Roma could have been top of the league had they not dropped 12 points in their past six games — five of which Garcia’s men have drawn.
Added to a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their Europa League last 32-tie at home to Feyenoord, confidence in the Roma camp is decidedly low.
“Unfortunately the results are just not there and we’re lacking confidence in our game,” Garcia said. “We should have wrapped up the game and we didn’t.”
With Verona themselves stuck in a rut — Andrea Mandorlini’s men have lost four of their past five outings — Roma’s hopes of ending their luckless spell will be high.
But the pressure is on, especially with Napoli, who sit third five points further adrift, in largely solid form ahead of the visit of Sassuolo on Monday.
Napoli’s 3-1 defeat away to Palermo last weekend ended a run of four consecutive wins but Rafael Benitez’s men raised spirits again with a 4-0 rout of Trabzonspor in Turkey in the Europa League on Thursday.
Benitez is sure Napoli have the mettle to challenge Roma for second place.
“If we keep our current form up then we have a great chance of achieving that aim,” the Spaniard said ahead of his side’s trip to Turkey.
“A lot will depend on Roma and whether they slip up again. If they do, we’ll be there ready to capitalise.
– Haunted house –
Saturday in Serie A, meanwhile, has been reserved solely for the Genoese derby between Sampdoria and Genoa.
Sampdoria are on the wane, having failed to win their past four games since Luis Muriel and Samuel Eto’o joined the club, while Genoa last week claimed their second win on the trot with a 5-2 drubbing of Verona.
Eto’o has yet to score for Sinisa Mihajlovic’s side since joining from Everton but hit the headlines in midweek when local newspapers claimed he bought a 30-room property that is supposedly haunted.
The Corriere dello Sport daily said the Villa Altachiara, which was built in the 19th century by George Herbert, Earl of Carnarvon — an Egyptologist who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun — is cursed.
Elsewhere, ailing AC Milan host struggling Cesena looking to end a sorry run of results which has left the Rossoneri in 11th, 24 points behind Juventus and all but out of the running for a return to the Champions League.
Coach Filippo Inzaghi’s job is on the line following a 1-1 home draw with struggling Empoli, after which speculation mounted that club owner Silvio Berlusconi is looking to sell up.
Central defender Adil Rami said it’s time to stop the rot: “The fans don’t deserve this moment and they deserve a Milan team that wins every game.
“For the moment we can’t give them this gift, but we’re working, hoping for a bit of luck and let’s see what happens against Cesena.”
Fixtures (times GMT)
Juventus v Atalanta (1945)
Sampdoria v Genoa (1945)
Empoli v Chievo, Verona v Roma, Lazio v Palermo, Milan v Cesena, Parma v Udinese (all 1400), Fiorentina v Torino (1945)
Napoli v Sassuolo (1800), Cagliari v Inter (2000)
– Agence France-Presse