AS Roma face a major test of their title credentials when they play AC Milan at the San Siro on Saturday hoping to create further misery for Carlo Ancelotti's struggling side.
Three straight defeats have left Milan, who began the season with a penalty of minus eight points imposed by a sports tribunal, trailing in 15th behind joint leaders Inter and Palermo.
Roma are just four points off the top two and harbour real hopes of making a concerted bid for the 'scudetto'.
Milan's three defeats include losses to Inter and Palermo and if Roma are to keep up the pace they too will need to come away from the San Siro with a positive result.
Ancelotti's problems increased this week when midfielder Gennaro Gattuso and defender Giuseppe Favalli were both ruled out until January with injuries.
Despite the 2-0 loss to Atalanta last week, which prompted newspaper speculation about an eventual change of coach at Milan, the club have made clear Ancelotti, a former Milan and Roma player, is staying put.
"Ancelotti's contract runs for this season and next season as well," said Milan's chief executive Adriano Galliani, "He will be on our bench in 2008 -- that is official and definite," he added.
Roma go into the game in good form after an impressive 3-1 victory over Fiorentina last week and Vincenzo Montella is hoping for a starting place after scoring twice in Wednesday's Italian Cup win over Triestina.
In-form Inter are away to Parma on Sunday after the two clubs enjoyed differing fortunes in first-leg Cup ties on Thursday -- Inter won 1-0 at Messina while Parma fell to a 1-0 defeat at Serie B side Napoli.
Palermo will expect to continue their impressive season at home to lowly Torino.