Serie A: Roma aim to keep Scudetto race alive

February 1, 2007

Any lingering doubts about who will win the 2006-7 Scudetto will be all but ended if Internazionale extend their remarkable winning streak to 15 matches this Sunday, when nearest challengers Roma are the visitors to the San Siro.

Inter start the weekend 11 points clear of the Eternal City club with third-placed Palermo a further seven points back in what is now effectively a two-horse race for the title.

Only one horse will be left standing if Inter see off Luciano Spalletti's men on Sunday.

With a 3-0 first leg lead to defend, Inter coach Roberto Mancini named a weakened squad for Thursday's Coppa Italia semi-final second-leg match with Sampdoria.

That means the likes of Adriano and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be raring to go for Sunday's home match with the Romans.

Spalletti's side are already through to the final of the Coppa Italia.

The battle at the summit will inevitably dominate a weekend that might otherwise have seen Ronaldo take centre stage on his return to Serie A.

Four-and-a-half years after he departed Inter for Real Madrid, the Brazilian is back on the other side of the city divide in the red-and-black of AC Milan.

He is set to make his debut in his new colours away to bottom club Ascoli on Sunday.

Ronaldo told Brazilian website Rede Globo: 'I am happy to be here with Milan, especially because there are five other Brazilians here.

'I know that in Milan's dressing room they asked if everyone wanted me here and they all replied that they did.'

Ascoli may still be bottom of the pile but they go into the match with Milan on the back of their second win of the season, a 2-1 triumph at the expense of Messina.

High-flying Sicilian clubs Catania and Palermo do battle in a match brought forward to Friday because the city of Catania will be thronged during the weekend for the feast day of their patron saint, St Agatha, who is seen as the city's guardian from nearby Mount Etna, Europe's largest and most active volcano.

Few would have thought both clubs would be in contention for Champions League places with Palermo third and Catania fifth.

Less impressive has been the form of Sicily's other Serie A club, Messina.

Coach Bruno Giordano was sacked this week after the Ascoli defeat and new boss Alberto Cavasin faces a baptism of fire.

He makes the two-mile ferry trip across the Straits of Messina to Reggio Calabria on the Italian mainland to play arch-rivals Reggina in the 'derby of the straits'.

Messina have not won since October 29 and are now in the bottom three with Reggina above them only on goal difference.

That game is played on Saturday as is the battle between Livorno and Cagliari.

Livorno have been boosted by some astute purchases in January with the latest to arrive being Stefano Fiore from Torino.

Parma are second bottom and will find it hard against a Fiorentina side that would be in the Champions League places were it not for a 15-point match-fixing deduction.

Udinese have clearly responded well to the arrival of Alberto Malesani as coach in place of the sacked Giovanni Galeone.

Consecutive wins over Messina and Torino have given Malesani the perfect start and they will look to make it three at home to Sampdoria on Sunday.

The club is further boosted by the return to fitness of World Cup-winning striker Vincenzo Iaquinta who has had flu.

Empoli play host to Atalanta in a battle between two clubs that have exceeded expectations this season while Torino make the trip to Siena.

Chievo will look to ease their relegation worries but face a tough battle at Lazio on Sunday.

The relegation battle looks set to go to the wire. But, as far as the Scudetto is concerned, the fat lady may be singing in Milan on Sunday evening if Inter see off Roma.