Roman derby: AS Roma aim for record
AS Roma seek an Italian League record 11th straight win on Sunday against city rivals Lazio.
The match, with little impact on the title, but the season highlight for fans in the country's capital, should also make clear AS Roma chances for the rest of the season without injured captain Francesco Totti.
Totti, the team's playmaker and captain, was sidelined for between two and three months last weekend with a bad ankle injury. Surgery on a fractured fibula and strained left-ankle ligaments also put at risk his participation in the June-9-July 9 World Cup.
After a bad start, Roma have collected a record-equaling streak of 10 wins which lifted them to fourth place in the standings.
Totti contributed with 15 goals and several assists for teammates. "We must prove we can do well without him, but there's no doubt that his absence is a heavy blow," midfielder Simone Perrotta said.
"We hope to give Francesco a victory in the derby as a gift." The derby is unpredictable, but Roma start as favourites. They are aiming to improve on the 10-win mark set by Juventus in 1932 and later matched by AC Milan and Bologna.
Roma enter Sunday's match 16 points behind Serie A leader Juventus and 13 ahead of Lazio.
"The derby will not be the same without Totti, but no doubt it will be hard-fought as usual," Lazio's veteran forward Paolo Di Canio said.
Roma have won 41, drawn 53 and lost 31 times in the derby. Striker Vincenzo Montella, just returned from a long injury, will replace Totti up front, while Brazilians Amantino Mancini and Rodrigo Taddel will have to make up for the assists.
Lazio's Tommaso Rocchi, who has 10 goals this season, will be the main threat to Roma's defense.
Juventus, coming off Wednesday's injury-time 3-2 loss at Werder Bremen in the Champions League, are expected to pocket their 22nd win of the season and 13th at home when they hosts lowly Lecce.
Lecce, next-to-last in the table, last won a match on December 11. Juventus have drawn twice in the last three rounds and are less impressive than in the first half of the campaign. On Sunday, the defending champions will be without suspended key defender Fabio Cannavaro.
The Turin giants take a 10-point lead over AC Milan and 12 over third-place Inter Milan into this weekend's 27th Serie A round. Milan, who drew 1-1 at Bayern Munich on Tuesday, are at Palermo where they were eliminated from the Italian Cup earlier this month. Milan will miss injured Brazilian goalkeeper Dida and defender Cafu.
Inter Milan, who struggled to draw 2-2 at Ajax in the Champions, hosts Udinese at San Siro.
The Milan side, without suspended striker Adriano, aims to end a streak of two losses and a draw while Udinese badly needs points after slipping into the lower half of the table.
Fifth-place Fiorentina, coming off straight losses to Livorno and Lazio, are at Parma.
Weekend matches also feature Reggina vs. Livorno, Ascoli vs. Messina, Cagliari vs. Chievo Verona, Empoli vs. Treviso and Siena vs. Sampdoria.