Serie A - Pressure on Roma as problems pile up

Problems are mounting for AS Roma on and off the pitch as they enter a two-week period that could make or break their Serie A title challenge.

Reuters
Serie A - Pressure on Roma as problems pile up
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Gervinho has been rejuvenated at Roma (Reuters)

They host Inter Milan on Saturday without several first-team players and will also be missing their hardcore and passionate support on the Curva Sud and Curva Nord sections of the Stadio Olimpico after authorities ordered them to be closed.

Rudi Garcia's side, second to Juventus and unbeaten in six games, were also forced to play in front of empty sections of their stadium in the 3-0 hammering of Sampdoria after "territorially discriminatory" anti-Napoli chanting.

The ruling infuriated Roma officials who tried unsuccessfully to appeal against the decision.

Despite the furore over fan chants, Roma have only lost once in the league this campaign, winning 17 of their 24 matches.

However, their pursuit of Juve will be under pressure with captain Francesco Totti, midfielder Alessandro Florenzi and the likes of Maicon, Federico Balzaretti and Dodo all out while Vassilis Torosidis, Miralem Pjanic and Gervinho are doubtful.

With a trip to third-placed Napoli, where they were destroyed 3-0 in the semi-finals of the Italian Cup, next week striker Gervinho said Roma could afford no slip-ups.

"It's still all to play for, and the season is long, even if catching Juve will be difficult," the Ivorian told website La Voix de l'Amerique.

"However we will try to put pressure on them right up to the end, even if the important thing is to keep hold of second place to give us direct entry into the Champions League."

Juventus take their nine-point lead to a rejuvenated AC Milan on Sunday (1945 GMT).

Champions Juve are unbeaten in a 17-game run that stretches back to October, and soundly thrashed both their principle title rivals Roma and Napoli 3-0 at the Juventus Stadium.

They face a Milan side that has dragged itself back into the fight for a Europa League place after a recent burst of good form following Clarence Seedorf's appointment last month.

Antonio Conte is likely to select a largely second string side for their trip to Trabzonspor in the Europa League on Thursday in order to prepare for the clash with Milan.

Of his first choice players only Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal are set to play, with Vidal suspended for Sunday's match.

"I need everyone and the players need to give me the right response. We've got too many games to not rotate," Conte said.

Milan are ninth on 35 points but four wins out of their last six league matches and fifth-placed Inter's stuttering form has seen them close the gap on their city rivals to five points.

Vincenzo Montella's Fiorentina will be without key midfielder Borja Valero for this weekend's clash with Lazio after the Spaniard was handed a four-match ban for apparently pushing ref Andrea Gervasoni during Monday's 2-2 draw at Parma.

The decision looked harsh, and Montella was then banned for one game for insulting Gervasoni after the match.

Fiorentina, who are fourth, five points behind Napoli, reacted furiously, with Valero calling Gervasoni a liar and club president Andrea Della Valle claiming that referees had it in for his team.

They missed out on a Champions League place last season after a soft penalty was given to rivals Milan, who controversially took the third spot on the final day.

"The city is tired of this...I'm asking myself what Fiorentina has done to deserve this," said Della Valle on Tuesday. "We're fighting for the Champions League, and (Stefano, leading figure in Italian referee's association) Braschi has to explain to us why Valero has been banned for four games.

"Last season we all saw how we lost a place in the Champions League."

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