ortisei (Italy) (AFP) – While coach Massimiliano Allegri rings the changes for Juventus ahead of their bid for a historic club treble, Serie A will wave farewell to legendary Francesco Totti in his final game with Roma on Sunday.
Allegri faces arguably the biggest challenge of his career when the Turin giants face Real Madrid in the Champions League final in Cardiff on June 3.
But with a record sixth consecutive scudetto, and record third successive league and Cup double now in the bag, the 49-year-old coach can at least afford to rest key players for Sunday’s final league outing of the season at Bologna.
Allegri has yet to name his starting line-up, but with Germany midfielder Sami Khedira sidelined and focused on recovering in time for Cardiff, Venezuelan Tomas Rincon is looking forward to a rare start.
Despite some brief respite after following their 2-0 Cup final win over Lazio with a 3-0 romp over Crotone last weekend, he said the focus is firmly on Bologna.
“We had two days off but we’re already focused on Saturday’s game,” said Rincon.
“As always, we’re going to Bologna looking to win. We’re in good shape and hoping to finish the championship with another three points before we start to focus on the Champions League final.
“It will be an intense week, but we have to stay calm, focused and work hard.”
As Juventus look to emluate Inter Milan, the first Italian team to win the treble, in 2010 under Jose Mourinho, closest rivals Roma host Genoa looking for the win that would comfortably secure the league’s second automatic Champions League spot.
For once this season, the Stadio Olimpico will be filled to capacity but only because Totti, having played 25 seasons with the Giallorossi, will make his final Serie A appearance.
Or at least hope to.
With Roma requiring a win to keep Napoli, one point further adrift, from snatching second spot, coach Luciano Spalletti may rain on Totti’s parade.
“Even though he deserves all his accolades, and everything that comes his way when he retires, my job is to make sure Roma win,” Spalletti said.
“I have to treat him as an important player but one who is part of a squad. And to be fair, I sometimes have to make choices that penalise him.”
Totti not making an appearance in his own finale would do little for Spalletti’s popularity in a week in which he has been linked with the vacant coach’s job at embattled Inter Milan, who have already failed to qualify for Europe before they host Udinese at the San Siro.
Despite winning only one scudetto, in 2001, the ‘King of Rome’ (Re di Roma) — as one-club man Totti has been known — is so respected that even the hardline ‘ultra’ fans of city rivals Lazio are admirers.
“We’ve been enemies all our lives, but we salute you Francesco Totti,” read a banner at the Stadio Olimpico last week as Lazio suffered a rare defeat to Inter.
Totti is expected to continue his career with Roma, albeit off the pitch, having signed a contract to work in management alongside the club’s new sporting director Monchi.
But the 40-year-old icon is keeping fans guessing. Amid reports he could accept an offer to keep on playing outside Serie A, Totti said on Thursday: “From Monday I’m ready for a fresh start. I’m ready for a new challenge.”
AC Milan, already assured of a Europa League place, travel to Cagliari looking to cap what has been an underwhelming season for the seven-time European champions with a win.
Crotone, meanwhile, host Lazio looking to upset predictions and secure the win that could secure top flight survival.
The Calabrians sit one point behind fourth-from-bottom Empoli, who are away at already-relegated Palermo.
Fixtures (times GMT)
Atalanta v Chievo, Bologna v Juventus (both 1600)
Cagliari v AC Milan (1300), Roma v Genoa, Sampdoria v Napoli (both 1600), Crotone v Lazio, Fiorentina v Pescara, Inter Milan v Udinese, Palermo v Empoli, Torino v Sassuolo (all 1845)
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