Roma looking to bounce back at Fiorentina
MILAN (AP) — Title-chasing Roma has been in something of a free fall since the start of 2015.
After cutting the gap to Serie A leader Juventus to one point in the first match after the winter break, two successive draws has seen it slip five points behind the defending champion at the halfway stage of the season.
It also struggled in the Italian Cup midweek, where it needed extra time and a highly debatable penalty to beat Serie A struggler Empoli 2-1 at home.
Roma was booed off the pitch by its own fans and coach Rudi Garcia knows he cannot afford any more slip-ups at Fiorentina on Sunday.
“We should have scored at least one more goal in normal time,” Garcia said. “We need to improve that. We can also do better in our choice of passes, our rhythm, stepping up the pace and giving more chances to the forwards.
“I agree with the fans, they are ambitious and they want to see a Roma which scores more goals.”
Fiorentina comes into the game on the back of two league wins and a comfortable 3-1 win over Atalanta in the Cup.
It is in sixth but part of a riveting battle for the final Champions League spot, with Lazio, Sampdoria and third-placed Napoli all within three points.
Here are some of the things to know about this weekend’s games:
JUVE MARCHING ON
Not content with reaching the halfway stage of the season at the top of the table, Juventus extended its advantage to five points over second-place Roma.
Juventus has scored 13 goals in its past three matches — between the cup and the league — and shows no sign of letting up as it continues its march to a fourth successive title.
“Five points don’t mean a thing,” Juventus forward Fernando Llorente said. “Roma is a great team, we know they want to win the title and we can’t allow ourselves to ease off.
“We must keep working hard in order to play our best in every game and show all our desire to taste further success.”
After facing Hellas Verona twice in the space of a week, winning 6-1 in the Italian Cup before a 4-0 Serie A victory, Juventus meets the city’s other team as it hosts relegation-threatened Chievo Verona on Sunday.
MILAN IN CRISIS — AGAIN
AC Milan is a squad in crisis and its faint hopes of a return to Champions League football are rapidly diminishing.
Just one victory in its past six league matches has seen Milan slip to eighth, seven points off the final Champions League qualifying spot.
Club owner Silvio Berlusconi has once again been forced to deny reports he is on the verge of selling up.
“Despite the numerous denials, indiscretions about a possible sale of Milan continue to circulate, in a recurring manner,” read a statement released by Berlusconi. “President Silvio Berlusconi reiterates, once again, that these are hypotheses without foundation.”
Milan visits third-place Lazio on Saturday with a host of personnel problems. Defenders Daniele Bonera, Mattia De Sciglio and Cristian Zapata are all injured as is midfielder Nigel de Jong.
Center back Adil Rami is suspended, while midfielder Keisuke Honda is at the Asian Cup.
New winger Suso is set to make his debut after joining from Liverpool.
Matters may be improving on the pitch but Inter Milan is embroiled in another saga off it after striker Pablo Daniel Osvaldo was absent without permission at the beginning of the week.
Inter has reportedly suspended Osvaldo after he disappeared for two days and the club could now decide to rescind its loan deal with Southampton for the controversial forward.
On the pitch, Roberto Mancini finally appears to be working his magic and Inter is undefeated in its past five league matches as well as through to the quarterfinals of the Italian Cup.
New signings Lukas Podolski and Xherdan Shaqiri combined to set it on its way to Wednesday’s 2-0 victory over Sampdoria, with the latter scoring his first Inter goal on his first start for the club since joining from Bayern Munich.
Inter hosts Torino on Sunday.