Roma coach Rudi Garcia has called for focus ahead of AC Milan's visit to the Olympic Stadium on Friday as Italian Serie A leaders Juventus look to inch closer to securing a third consecutive Scudetto.
With an eight-point deficit to the Turin giants and four games remaining, Roma remain mathematically in contention for their first league title since 2001. But with Juventus expected to prevail on their visit to struggling Sassuolo on Monday, four days after a 2-1 defeat away to Benfica in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League semi-final, the writing appears to be already on the wall.
Victories for both Roma and Juventus in their respective matches this weekend would give Garcia's challengers even less chance of causing an upset in the last three games -- during which Juve face Atalanta, Roma and Cagliari.
Roma are already assured of second place and Serie A's second automatic UEFA Champions League spot for next season. And after underlining the need for "reinforcements" if his side are to challenge both at home and in Europe next season, Garcia called for focus against a Milan side enjoying a resurgence under coach Clarence Seedorf.
"Milan progressed further than any other Italian team in the Champions League. They won five games in a row, so that shows you how tough it's going to be," added Garcia.
"Sassuolo will be playing for their survival against Juventus, so I expect them to give 100 per cent," added Garcia. "I hope they field their best side. I don't expect to see their best players on the bench or hear things like, 'It was good we only lost 1-0', as I've already heard after other teams' defeats at Juventus Stadium."
Confidence high at Milan
Confidence is high at Milan, who have hoisted themselves up to seventh and within sight of a place in next season's Europa League.
But even Seedorf wonders whether it is enough to hand Roma what would be their first home defeat of the campaign.
"I have a lot of respect for Garcia and his side," Seedorf said. "I don't know if we can stop their individual players, that would be complicated given their quality. We just have to keep on playing as we have been and stick to our game plan. We've always played one game at a time and we're focused on tomorrow."
Napoli, in third, sit ten points ahead of Fiorentina and can secure the third and last Champions League spot with a win away at Inter on Sunday. But having missed out on Europe this season, fifth-placed Inter, like Milan, are desperate for European action next season and host Rafael Benitez's side with a five-point lead on Parma and their city rivals, in seventh.
Milan will also host Inter next week in what is being billed as a Europa League clincher, but before then striker Rodrigo Palacio insisted on Inter Channel: "Before that we have Napoli, which is another difficult match. If we're to qualify for the Europa League, we need a strong performance."
The Inter v Napoli fixture will pit Palacio against compatriot Gonzalo Higuain, who is vying with another Argentinian, Carlos Tevez, for the top scorer's award. Currently, Torino striker Ciro Immobile sits top on 20 goals, with Tevez tied for second with Luca Toni on 18 and Higuain fourth on 17 -- two ahead of Palacio.
"He's a former River Plate boy, so it will be good to go up against him," Palacio said, formerly of Boca Juniors. "We'll have to keep close tabs on him because he's a player that can make the difference."
Italian Serie A fixtures
Roma v Milan