Monday, 25 February 2008

Serie A Week 25: Midweek Preview

Roma travel to Serie A leaders Inter on Wednesday knowing defeat will all but hand the Scudetto to their opponents.

A win for Inter at the San Siro would leave the second-placed Giallorossi trailing by 12 points with 13 matches to go.

But a 1-0 win over Fiorentina on Sunday, coupled with Inter's draw at Sampdoria, narrowed the gap slightly and Roma coach Luciano Spalletti knows that victory could blow the title race wide open again.

"It seems to me that up to now Roma have done brilliantly," he said. "And if Inter have created this gap it means they have been impeccable.

"I thought we would have arrived at this point in the championship without such a huge gap. However, it won't be easy for them to get back to the form they need to do well again. They are very strong in the physical sense, and in dead-ball situations.

"We have to find our path and that is to play the ball, and to control the game."

Inter's slip at the weekend capped a bad week for the Nerazzurri who fell to a 2-0 defeat at Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash midweek.

And coach Roberto Mancini knows his side need to get back to winning ways.

"You can't always win," he said after the 1-1 draw at Samp. "Every once in a while you can also lose points. It was a difficult game, Sampdoria have always won at home in their last few games.

"For us it's an important week, there's the clash against Roma and then we go to Napoli.

"Are Inter going through a more difficult time at the moment? There are times during a year where things might not go very well, but those things happen.

"We have to think as well that we have not lost. But it is in these times that you see the strength of a team."

Juventus will hope to take advantage of any Roma slip-up as they host mid-table Torino in the Turin derby on Tuesday.

The third-placed side should have closed the gap on the Capital side to just a point but they fell to defeat at Reggina in a match which left Juve fuming at controversial refereeing decisions.

Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon returns to the starting XI having been rested at the weekend, but the hosts will be without Cristiano Zanetti, who begins a two-match ban.

Torino go into the clash inspired by Saturday's comeback against Parma. Walter Novellino's side trailed 4-1 but fought back to earn a valuable point against the Ducale club.

Meanwhile, the race for the final Champions League spot hots up after fourth-placed AC Milan's victory over Palermo left them above Fiorentina on goal difference.

The Rossoneri travel to struggling Catania on Wednesday while Livorno, who are level on points with the Sicilians, host Fiorentina.

Reggina follow their impressive victory over Juve with a trip to Lazio and will seek to push out of the relegation zone.

The capital side fell to a 1-0 defeat on Sunday at rock-bottom Cagliari, who travel to 17th placed Siena.

Parma will be kicking themselves after losing a three-goal lead at Torino which saw them miss the chance to haul themselves out of the relegation zone. They have another chance to do so against high-flying Udinese.

In-form Empoli travel to Palermo going for their fourth win on the trot while, in mid-table clashes, Atalanta welcome Sampdoria and Genoa host Napoli.

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