Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 23 January 2020

Roma and Lazio set for central roles in title battle between Juventus and Inter Milan: Serie A preview

Antonio Conte's side hold a one-point lead over the champions heading into Round 15 of fixtures

Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku will aim to fire Inter Milan to victory over Roma on Friday night. AFP
Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku will aim to fire Inter Milan to victory over Roma on Friday night. AFP

Two clubs from the capital could play a key role in the Serie A title race this weekend when Roma travel to leaders Inter Milan and Lazio host champions Juventus.

Inter took top spot last weekend after Antonio Conte's side took advantage of Juve's surprise draw at home with Sassuolo on Sunday by edging SPAL in a later fixture.

Inter can extend their lead to four points when they take on Roma on Friday night before Maurizo Sarri's side head south to take on in-form Lazio in the Stadio Olimpico, days before travelling to Bayer Leverkusen.

Cristiano Ronaldo returns to Serie A action after missing out on the Ballon d'Or, settling instead for the Italian Serie A 'Player of the Year' award.

Lazio are third - seven points behind Inter - and are unbeaten in the Stadio Olimpico this season, second only to Juventus for points accumulated on home turf.

Roma are a further two points behind their city rivals and equal on points with fourth-placed Cagliari, who travel to Sassuolo on Saturday.

"They are a top side, first in the league, and very physical," said Roma midfielder Jordan Veretout.

"Lautaro Martinez and (Romelu) Lukaku are difficult for any defence to contain, so we'll need to put in a top performance to get a positive result."

Lazio manager Simone Inzaghi warned that his side are gaining momentum and, powered by Serie A top scorer Ciro Immobile, the club have scored 21 goals at home in seven games.

"We'll give everything against Juve," said Inzaghi, whose side have lost just twice in the league this season, and not since September 25 against Inter in the San Siro. "An ambitious team must always look forward never backwards, without setting limits."

Roma have also lost just two games this season, as they push for a return to the Champions League.

Beleaguered Napoli, meanwhile, head north-east to Udinese looking for a boost after eight games without a win, before their bid to seal a Champions League last 16 berth at home against Genk next week.

Manager Carlo Ancelotti ordered his players into a training camp after their 2-1 home defeat to Bologna last Sunday, risking further unrest at the troubled club.

Ancelotti's side are seventh, 17 points behind Inter Milan, and the 60-year-old Italian has decided to crack down on his players, who have reportedly also been fined €2.5 million (Dh10.2m) in total by the club's management for failing to respect a previous training lockdown.

Atalanta, in sixth, host Verona, three places below them, before their key Champions League game at Shakhtar Donetsk in the Ukraine.

Midtable Torino host Fiorentina, a point behind, without injured captain Andrea Belotti, with the Tuscans, on a three-match losing streak, hit by French midfielder Franck Ribery's ankle injury.

AC Milan, in 11th, chase back-to-back wins at Parma amid reports Sweden star Zlatan Ibrahimovic could return to his former club.

Updated: December 6, 2019 11:19 AM