‘Last big test’ for Roma


Derby clash the key for Totti’s title-chasing Roma

ROME: AS Roma face city rivals Lazio in the Rome derby tomorrow knowing it could be their last big test in the run-in for a largely unexpected Serie A title.Roma will have relinquished their league lead come kick-off at the Stadio Olimpico if champions Inter Milan, who sit a point adrift, beat visiting Juventus at the San Siro on Friday.

But should Roma prevail, their path to a first scudetto since 2001 will appear decidedly easier.

After Lazio they host Sampdoria and Cagliari and have trips to Parma and Chievo — hardly a daunting run-in, especially as Cagliari and Chievo have virtually nothing left to play for, Sampdoria are poor on their travels while Parma only have an outside chance of Europa League qualification.

Roma, meanwhile, have not lost in 23 league matches although relegation-threatened Lazio, too, have been much improved recently and are unbeaten in their last five matches with three victories.

Still, Roma’s players have to pinch themselves to make sure they’re not dreaming when they look at the league table.

Roma began the season with three wins and five defeats in their opening 10 matches, leaving them hovering above the relegation zone, 14 points behind then leaders Inter.

Since then, though, they have not been beaten.

“Of course, when you think about how we started and where we are now it seems unreal,” club captain Francesco Totti told Il Romanista.

“But we’ve earned top spot on the field through sacrifice and team spirit and we’ve never given up, even when we weren’t playing as well.”

Roma went top for the first time this season with a 2-1 home win against Atalanta last weekend but Totti recognises that staying at the summit is harder than reaching it.

“On Sunday we managed to go top but now we have to consolidate that by approaching the next five matches as if they were five finals,” he added.

“Lazio are an in-form team who are in good shape physically.”

Should Roma, Inter or both slip up this weekend, AC Milan would get a much needed lifeline as they too are still in the running for the ‘scudetto’.

Milan trail Roma by four points and have a tough trip to Sampdoria to contend with on Sunday.

But they, like Inter, have stuttered recently and have drawn their last three home games, dropping six points that would have been enough to see them go top.

It has left everyone involved with the club feeling frustrated at missed opportunities and club captain Massimo Ambrosini says they simply can’t afford further setbacks.

“As for the title, right now the others have match-point,” he said. “There is bitterness but there’s no use looking backwards, what’s happened has happened. — AFP