Roma Still Fight for Title Bid Waiting for Juventus' Demise
Roma travel to Cagliari on Sunday hoping to maintain slim hopes of a last-ditch title charge but have Serie A history, as well as a determined Juventus side against them.
Rudi Garcia's side reignited hopes of a first scudetto since 2001 with a 4-2 win over Parma on Wednesday in a game that had been postponed earlier this season. The win reduced the gap to leaders Juventus to eight points and although no Italian side has managed to overcome such a deficit with seven games remaining Roma are reinvigorated.
"Juventus are doing really well, so are Napoli, but we're still ambitious and we won't give up," said Bosnian midfielder Miralem Pjanic. "In football, anything can happen."
Roma's bid was given fresh impetus last week when Juventus succumbed to a 2-0 defeat at Napoli, a setback which coach Antonio Conte partly blamed on his side's endeavors in the Europa League. Juventus, who beat Lyon 1-0 in the first leg of their quarter-final on Thursday, are even more determined to make the final of this season's competition as the May 14 final will be held at their own ground.
Although no team has overcome an eight-point deficit with seven games to play, the memory of Juve's dramatic scudetto loss to Lazio on the last day of the 1999-2000 campaign has drawn comparisons. In 2000, Sven Goran Eriksson's Lazio trailed Juve by nine points with eight games remaining and went on to reduce the deficit to just two points heading into the final match.
Lazio's only chance was to secure a win over Reggina and for Perugia to defeat Juventus. As Lazio won 3-0, a downpour at the Juve game forced a long delay and added to already existing final-day tension. Perugia, much to everyone's surprise, took the fight to Juve and ultimately secured a 1-0 win when Alessandro Calori beat 'keeper Edwin van der Sar.
- 'The Perugia incident' -
In the wake of the past week's events, the 'Perugia incident' has been dusted down and given an airing, although the general feeling is that a repeat won't be on the cards this season.
"It's totally different this time. I don't think there will be another Perugia," former Juve midfielder Alessio Tacchinardi told Corriere dello Sport.
"This year Conte's side will prevail, even if Roma are having an amazing season. So far, there haven't been any similar scenarios to what happened 14 years ago. If Juve get over their next two games, it's all over."
Roma's midweek win also took their lead over Napoli, in third, to nine points ahead of Napoli's visit to a Parma side chasing Europa League qualification meaning the second automatic Champions League qualifying spot is getting closer for Garcia's men.
It has underlined Napoli's need for a win on Sunday and on-loan Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina says they won't give up on the second automatic place until it's no longer possible. "We won't give up until we're no longer in contention mathematically," said the Spaniard. "Plus, there are still other achievements to attain such as finishing with the club's biggest points total."
Parma's midweek defeat meant they still sit two points off Inter, who host Bologna in one of two games Saturday -- the other being the Verona derby between Chievo and Verona. However Roberto Donadoni's side will be without strikers Antonio Cassano and Amauri, midfielder Gargano and defender Alessandro Lucarelli.
AC Milan, meanwhile, will be without Ghanaian midfielder Michael Essien for their trip to Genoa on Monday due to a right thigh injury. Clarence Seedorf's side currently sit 11th, 39 points behind leaders Juventus, 22 behind third-placed Napoli in the final Champions League spot and seven behind Inter who occupy the final Europa League spot.