TURIN (Reuters) - Sunday’s Rome derby brings Serie A’s two most erratic teams face to face in a match which promises a goal feast.
AS Roma won their last game 4-1 against Palermo while Lazio, whose coach Vladimir Petkovic will be experiencing the fixture for the first time, were thumped 4-0 by Catania.
However, Lazio have shown that they are just as capable of winning handsomely and Roma are equally prone to calamitous defeats.
To further spice up the encounter, the teams are next to each other in the table, Lazio lying fifth with 19 points from 11 games and Roma one place below on 17.
The return of Zdenek Zeman, a coach whose philosophy has always been based on bold and, some feel, reckless attack, has been one of the talking points for the Serie A season.
Under Zeman’s second stint at the club, Roma have the best scoring and second-worst defensive record in the league. They twice lost 3-2 at home after squandering two-goal leads and won 4-2 away after overturning a three-goal deficit.
Czech-born coach Zeman does not back down from confrontation and the latest victim is midfielder Daniele De Rossi, who has started only six Serie A games and has been linked in Italian media with a move away from the club.
Their one consistently good performer has been Argentine midfielder Erik Lamela who has seven goals to his credit.
Lazio have faded after a good start in which they won their first three games and Petkovic admitted they may have been thinking of the derby when they collapsed at Catania last Sunday.
”Our attitude after their second goal was inexplicable,“ said the former Young Boys coach who substituted playmaker Hernandes at halftime. ”I just hope the derby was not already in the minds of my players.
“We should have been professional enough to not think about the derby before going up against a difficult opponent like Catania,” he added.
Leaders and champions Juventus, whose 49-match unbeaten run was ended by Inter Milan last week, visit promoted Pescara, the team Zeman led out of Serie B last season, in what should be a stern test of their title credentials on Saturday.
Inter, who have closed the gap to one point, are on a roll having won their last nine games in all competitions before Thursday’s Europa League match at Partizan Belgrade.
They visit mid-table Atalanta on Sunday but have defensive worries with Andrea Ranocchi and Walter Samuel both injured.
The other highlight is AC Milan’s match at home to fourth-placed Fiorentina, whose revitalised team has been the revelation of the championship.
After a terrible start, Milan have shown signs of life by taking seven points from their last nine but produced another disjointed performance in the Champions League on Tuesday when they were held 1-1 at home by Malaga.
Even so, it was a fourth match without defeat which has lifted the pressure on coach Massimiliano Allegri whose future was the subject of intense speculation only two weeks ago. (Editing by Ed Osmond)