Milan (AFP) – Roma striker Edin Dzeko insists the pressure is on Napoli in their Serie A battle for second spot, but called for a return to consistency with a Champions League-boosting win at Pescara on Monday.
Now eight points behind record-chasing leaders Juventus after a 1-1 home draw with Atalanta last week, Roma are just two points ahead of a Napoli side desperate to claim the second automatic Champions League spot.
But Dzeko, tied at the top of Serie A’s goal charts on 25 goals with Torino striker Andrea Belotti, believes Roma have the psychological edge.
“We’re still in second place and we still have more points than Napoli, so now the pressure is on them,” Dzeko told asroma.com in midweek.
“There’s no fear. We’re a good team, but now we can’t have any more slip-ups.”
Their title dream all but over, any hopes Roma may entertain of seeing Juve drop points at home to Genoa on Sunday were probably tempered in midweek.
Juve claimed a deserved place in the semi-finals of the Champions League thanks to a 3-0 aggregate win over Barcelona, after holding the five-time winners to a scoreless draw with an astute defensive display at the Nou Camp.
Already on track for a third consecutive league and Cup double, there is now a distinct smell of a treble in the air for Massimiliano Allegri’s men, said defender Leonardo Bonucci.
“We’re still in contention for all three objectives, which are attainable, so it’s simply a question of mentality,” Bonucci told Sky Sport.
Juve host Genoa in Turin looking to avenge a 3-1 away reverse earlier this season, and, if Wednesday’s performance is any yardstick, Allegri’s men are unlikely to falter on their way to a record sixth consecutive scudetto.
With Napoli on a tricky trip to Sassuolo, Roma may even tighten their grip on second spot this weekend, when the fight for places in Europe’s second tier competition heats up.
Argentine playmaker Alejandro Gomes returns to the starting line-up, along with goalkeper Etrit Berisha and midfielder Spinazzola, as Atalanta look to take another step towards the Europa League with a win at home to Bologna on Saturday.
A credible 1-1 draw at Roma kept Atalanta in fifth, two points ahead of AC Milan, who moved up to sixth after a last-gasp 2-2 derby draw away to Inter.
Inter are now seventh, four points behind Atalanta and desperate not to lose touch when they face Fiorentina away in Saturday’s late game.
“We have to get back on track, we’re at the end of the championship and the opportunities are getting fewer,” said Inter coach Stefano Pioli, who is expected to keep faith with the starting line-up that took a 2-0 half-time lead into the dressing room against Milan.
“We’ll take stock of things at the end of the season, but for now we have to knuckle down, and stop making mistakes.”
Already four points behind Inter, and eight behind Atalanta, Fiorentina are without Croatia striker Nikola Kalinic (suspension), meaning a likely start for Khouma Babacar, whose late strike sealed a 2-1 win over Inter in Florence last season.
With Atalanta expected to prevail against Bologna, Lazio, one point ahead of the Bergamo side but nine behind Napoli following a desperate 2-2 draw at Genoa last week, can ill afford another slip-up, at home to Palermo.
“We want to defend fourth spot,” said Argentina midfielder Lucas Biglia. “From Sunday, we have to get back to winning ways.
“We can’t afford any more slip-ups because the teams just behind us are just as capable. Plus, Palermo are fighting for their survival.”
Palermo sit 10 points adrift of the safety zone, just two points ahead of rock-bottom Pescara but five behind third-from-bottom Crotone, who are five points from safety.
Atalanta v Bologna (1600), Fiorentina v Inter Milan (1845)
Sassuolo v Napoli (1030), Chievo v Torino, Lazio v Palermo, AC Milan v Empoli, Sampdoria v Crotone, Udinese v Cagliari (all 1300), Juventus v Genoa (1845)
Pescara v Roma (1845)