Lazio latest in line to try to halt Inter charge
Published : 20 Jan 2012 01:46:28
All the talk in Italy at the moment is about Inter Milan and their remarkable comeback after a catastrophic start to the season that has seen them close in to six points off top.
Unbeaten Juventus lead the table by a point from champions AC Milan, who were stunned by Inter in their city derby last week.
Juve travel to Atalanta on Saturday night but despite their club record unbeaten start to a campaign, their tendency to draw games means many people are still unconvinced by their title potential.
Milan remain the favourites but defeats to both Juve and Inter this season shows they can be vulnerable.
The big question mark is over fifth-placed Inter, the form team in the league.
Two wins in their first nine matches has been followed by eight in their next nine and they are starting to rediscover the confidence, conviction and form that took them to five straight scudetto crowns until their neighbours dethroned them last season.
Such is their recent form that coach Claudio Ranieri says talented Dutch playmaker Wesley Sneijder will have to bide his time before he gets back into the team.
Strike pair Diego Milito and Giampaolo Pazzini are both finding the net and Ranieri seems happy with his four-man midfield.
At the beginning of their run, Inter were scraping through in tight games but recently they have thumped Lecce 4-1 and Parma 5-0.
This is a team really pushing down on the accelerator but Ranieri is wary after several false dawns previously during the season.
And he certainly doesn't want the team to get carried away by their derby success.
"This is a team that in the past has shown it knows how to manage euphoric moments," said Ranieri.
"Not just that, but because this is a team that knows how to win and wants to keep winning. We've already shown several times this season that we're capable of relaxing but now we must prove that we know how to walk and run."
They host a Lazio team on Sunday night that has just started to wobble after a bright start.
Lazio are five points off top in fourth and only a point above Inter, knowing that defeat at the San Siro will allow the nerazzurri to ovetake them in the table, making their Champions League qualification quest a tougher prospect.
The capital-based club started the New Year with a horror show in crumbling 4-0 at Siena but they produced a vastly superior showing in beating Atalanta 2-0 last weekend.
Atalanta are the opponents for Juventus this weekend and the Turin giants will have noted their hosts' loss of form.
Having started the season with a six-point deficit for match-fixing Atalanta had lost only twice before Christmas and would have been challenging for European places but for their penalty.
But they too have struggled in the New Year losing twice in a row.
Milan travel to hapless Novara who are looking more and more like relegation certainties with each passing week.
Two points in their last six games and only two wins all season has left Novara rock bottom with little hope of causing a major upset against the champions.
The other title challengers Udinese host Catania hoping to rebound quickly from their 3-2 defeat at Genoa last time out.
And Napoli will try to avoid another slip-up away to Siena, having drawn at home to Bologna on Monday to slip 10 points off top.
Roma v Cesena (1700 GMT), Atalanta v Juventus (1945 GMT)
Sunday (1400 GMT unless stated)
Bologna v Parma (1130 GMT), Cagliari v Fiorentina, Lecce v Chievo, Novara v AC Milan, Palermo v Genoa, Siena v Napoli, Udinese v Catania, Inter Milan v Lazio (1945 GMT)