Lazio looking to overtake fierce rival Roma for second
MILAN (AP) — Roma was fighting for the Serie A title not so long ago, but this could be the weekend it loses its grip on second spot.
A long slump since the turn of the year has left Roma 14 points behind Juventus, after just one win in its past 10 matches.
The team was jeered off the pitch following Monday’s home defeat to Sampdoria, its first league loss at the Stadio Olimpico this season. It led coach Rudi Garcia to respond by saying say that “the day I realize I can no longer help the club to win trophies, I will make way for someone else.”
“But as long as the players are with me, I want to win things here because that’s why I came,” Garcia said. “With this team, in this environment which is perhaps the toughest in the world, it’s still possible to win things.”
Next up is a visit to Cesena, which is languishing near the bottom of Serie A. However, Cesena is coming into form at the right time as it battles to avoid the drop and only two defeats in its past eight matches has seen it creep to within four points of safety.
Waiting in the wings to take advantage of any Roma slip is fierce city rival Lazio. It is a point behind Roma and hosts Hellas Verona also on Sunday.
Napoli, Fiorentina and Sampdoria are all within five points of Roma and play Atalanta, Udinese and Inter Milan respectively.
Leader Juventus hosts Genoa in the only match with the traditional kickoff of 3 p.m. (2 p.m. GMT) Sunday.
Here are some things to know about this weekend’s games:
ANDERSON ON SONG
Much of Lazio’s impressive recent run is due to midfielder Felipe Anderson.
Lazio overtook Napoli for third spot in Serie A last weekend with a 2-0 win at Torino, with both goals coming from the young Brazilian, who is fast becoming one of the standout stars of the season.
He has been directly involved in 14 of Lazio’s goals over his last 10 league appearances, with six assists in addition to his eight goals.
“We can think about second spot but first of all we have to focus and work on the next match against Verona,” the Brazilian said. “Because if we look too far ahead we risk not being focused enough.”
With the exception of Juventus, Lazio has won the most games, scored the most goals, and possess the best home record in the league.
Juventus will be full of confidence ahead of the visit of Genoa after easing into the Champions League quarterfinals.
Many expected a tough test for Juventus in Dortmund on Wednesday, but two goals and an assist from Carlos Tevez saw the Italian champion blow its opponent away with a 3-0 victory, progressing 5-1 on aggregate.
“I thought we were all magnificent,” Tevez said. “I just do my job out there: it’s the team that wins matches. We know that every Champions League game is a big step up for Juve but we’re on the right path.”
Tevez has scored 21 goals in 33 Serie A and Champions League games this season.
A treble could be on the cards with Juventus 14 points clear in Serie A and in the Italian Cup semifinals.
First up, though, is the visit of Genoa — the only team to beat Juventus in the league this season.
According to the statistics, AC Milan has only itself to blame for being out of the Champions League places.
Milan has lost points several times this season after being in the lead and that happened again last weekend when Fiorentina came from behind to win 2-1 at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.
Filippo Inzaghi’s side has thrown away 21 points, losing three matches and drawing nine after scoring the first goal.
In fact, if games were won by the opening goal, Milan would be second in the standings behind Juventus.
Milan has won just two of its past 12 matches, both against teams in the relegation zone. It next faces another side in the bottom three, with the visit of Cagliari on Saturday.
“This season we’ve dropped a lot of points, but we have to stay focused only on the next match,” Milan midfielder Nigel De Jong said. “We’ve seen that in every match we’ve been missing something, but it’s hard to find consistency lately. Every week we have injuries.
“We have to grow against Cagliari. At the end all that’s important is the three points. How we get them doesn’t matter. We still believe in qualifying for Europe. Even in this difficult period. Let’s defeat Cagliari first and then we shall see.”