Lazio chasing Roma for 2nd place in Italian league
MILAN (AP) — Heading into the final months of the season, Lazio is riding a seven-match winning streak in Serie A and has advanced to the Italian Cup final.
Although still in third place, Lazio has closed the gap on second-place Roma to only one point and will face Juventus in the Italian Cup final.
“The team has enormous potential,” Lazio coach Stefano Pioli said. “The players have great character values as well as technical. That’s why we’re doing very well.
“We have achieved one of our goals, but we have not yet won anything. Now we’re thinking about the league. We want the maximum from this season.”
Lazio hosts Empoli on Sunday, while Roma visits Torino.
Fourth-place Fiorentina, which is six points behind Lazio in the battle for the Champions League spaces, visits Napoli with both looking to recover from cup disappointment. Also, Sampdoria travels to AC Milan and Juventus visits crisis-hit Parma.
Here are some things to know about this weekend’s games:
While Lazio is soaring, the mood is miserable at Napoli after a poor run in the league that has dropped the club to sixth place and out of the Champions League and Europa League spots.
Napoli has not won in Serie A in nearly two months, with three losses and two draws since a 2-0 victory over Sassuolo on Feb. 23.
“Last year we did brilliantly but this year we got to the Italian Cup semifinals and we’re in the Europa League quarterfinals and we were doing well in the league up until a month ago,” Lazio coach Rafa Benitez said. “We’re lacking a bit of confidence, character and precision, but there’s still nine matches lest and at least two Europa League ones.”
Fiorentina will also be looking to bounce back after Juventus overcame a first-leg deficit with a 3-0 win on Tuesday in the Italian Cup.
Things appear to have finally turned around for Parma, which was declared bankrupt last month.
Parma beat Udinese 1-0 in Wednesday’s rearranged match for its first victory since the beginning of January and only its fourth all season.
The victory marks a brief run of good results for Parma, which held Inter Milan to a 1-1 draw at the San Siro on Saturday.
It faces its toughest test on Saturday, when it hosts Juventus, which defeated Parma 7-0 earlier in the season.
“We have to get a bit of revenge for that match,” Parma defender Fabiano Santacroce said. “But winning a match gives us a sense of liberation.
“We are giving clear responses on the field to those who say that, because of our club’s situation, the league has been damaged. We have always given our all and that’s what we’re doing. We owe it to ourselves and to the city.”
Juventus is likely to look past Saturday’s match against Parma.
With a 14-point advantage over second-place Roma, the league is all but wrapped up and the team hosts Monaco in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals four days later.
Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri is likely to rest some players ahead of that crucial match. The league’s leading scorer, Carlos Tevez, is unlikely to play at Parma. Defenders Stephan Lichtsteiner and Andrea Barzagli could also sit out. All three were kept out of the Italian Cup victory at Fiorentina as a precaution.
Paul Pogba and Andrea Pirlo are still sidelined with long-term injuries, as are Romulo and Kwadwo Asamoah.