AS Roma faces derby challenge in Serie A

AS Roma’s first test as Serie A leader comes in the derby against

city rival Lazio, as the Rome club tries to extend its 23-game

unbeaten streak.

While Roma has erased a 14-point deficit to Inter Milan to

take the lead, Lazio has struggled near the relegation zone.

The loan signing of Italy striker Luca Toni during the

transfer window has helped continue Roma’s revival. Toni has scored

five goals and is likely to form an attacking trident with captain

Francesco Totti and Mirko Vucinic.

“We can look back on a good victory and one we had to work

hard for,” Toni said following the 2-1 win over Atalanta that put

Roma top. “Now we are top of the table and our next match, against

Lazio in the derby, is my first Rome derby and I can’t wait to play

this game.”

Toni’s attacking partner Vucinic is another who is in good

form. Against Atalanta he hit his 11th of the season with the

opening goal.

“There’s a positive atmosphere in the changing rooms,”

Vucinic said. “For the derby we just have to win.”

Earlier in the season a Marco Cassetti goal for Roma made the

difference in a heated match that pointed to the way both sides

would fare this season.

Currently Lazio is six points above the relegation zone but

still in need of points with five matches remaining.

“It will be a great game and we really have to believe that

we can win it,” Lazio midfielder Cristian Ledesma said. “We know it

would galvanize our season to get a good result, but we know Roma

will fight all the way.”

Inter, meanwhile, can temporarily move back to the top when

it meets Juventus on Friday. The match has been brought forward to

allow Jose Mourinho’s side more time to prepare for its Champions

League semifinal against Barcelona on Tuesday.

In midweek Inter reached the Italian Cup final after a 1-0

win over Fiorentina and there is hope that it could give the team a

lift for the run in to the end of the season.

“Lately we have been a bit unlucky,” assistant coach Daniele

Bernazzani said. “We have to make sure we win our last five games

to give ourselves the chance of winning the title.”

AC Milan’s players and staff have had to look on with envy at

Roma’s ascent to the top of the league knowing that they missed two

opportunities to take top spot with draws at home to Napoli and

Lazio.

This weekend Leonardo’s team travels away to Sampdoria which

is level with Palermo in the fourth and final Champions League

place.

However, there continues to be speculation surrounding

Leonardo’s future as coach following a mixed season.

“His future is in their (Milan’s directors’) hands,” captain

Massimo Ambrosini said. “I think they will base their decision on

what has happened over the last few months. Us players can only

thank Leonardo for all the hard work he has done.”

Also this weekend, it is; Chievo Verona vs. Livorno; Atalanta

vs. Fiorentina; Bari vs. Napoli; Cagliari vs. Palermo; Catania vs.

Siena; Parma vs. Genoa; Udinese vs. Bologna.