Lazio out to prove they're title contenders
Lazio face a stern test at home to league leaders Juventus at Stadio Olimpico on Saturday, as they bid to prove they are capable of pushing Serie A's heavyweights all the way in the race for the Scudetto.
Second-placed Lazio currently trail Juve on goal difference alone, although the Old Lady of Turin do have a game in hand.
The Rome club's midfielder Cristian Ledesma says it is too early to read too much into this match but does recognise the importance of putting one over on a potential title rival.
"It's to early to tell if it's a title clash but we're all there, that's what the table says," he pointed out. "It's an important match for both teams but this year every match is difficult.
"I think we've played well against the big teams and maybe if we'd managed our counter-attacks better in the second half against Napoli (in last weekend's 0-0 draw), we could have won. But I think we can be happy.
"We'll see on Saturday if we manage to continue doing what we've been doing since the start of the season.
"We're in good form but we're coming up against a strong team, with players of the level of (Alessandro) Del Piero and (Milos) Krasic on the bench.
"Given the way they've been playing, they're one of the favourites for the title."
Juve are the only ubeaten team left in the league this season and will play their game in hand away to Napoli on Tuesday.
Victories in both games would allow them to put daylight between themselves and the rest.
Lazio will be boosted by the return of top scorer Miroslav Klose, although they still have doubts over French pair Abdoulay Konko and Djibril Cisse.
Brazilian centre-back Andre Dias is almost certain to miss out.
Although Juve and Lazio were the top two heading into the weekend's games, they will not necessarily remain so when their match kicks off as fourth-placed Udinese host Roma on Friday night.
Should Lazio and Juve draw then either Udinese or champions AC Milan, who host Chievo on Sunday night, could potentially take over top spot as well.
Both are just a point behind the top two and come into their weekend matches eager to bounce back from defeat.
Udinese lost 2-0 at Parma last weekend, while Milan played well but succumbed 3-2 to Barcelona in the Champions League in mid-week.
That followed on from a 0-0 draw at Fiorentina last weekend and led Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani to say that he would like the team to play badly but win this weekend, following two good performances that failed to yield a victory.
Another side that come into the weekend games off the back of an impressive performance are seventh-placed Napoli, who travel to Atalanta on Saturday night.
They toppled Manchester City 2-1 in the Champions League on Tuesday but president Aurelio De Laurentiis admitted after that match that he was more worried about the game in Bergamo.
Napoli have been the epitome of inconsistent this season, beating Milan, Inter Milan and City but losing to the likes of Chievo, Parma and Catania.
They play better when they are the underdogs but seem unable to break down supposedly weaker sides and another defeat would surely render their title hopes obsolete.
Giants Inter, meanwhile, will be hoping to climb away from the danger zone when they travel to Siena.
They have yet to win successive league games this season and go into the weekend in 16th place.
Saturday (1700GMT unless otherwise stated):
Lecce v Catania, Novara v Parma, Atalanta v Napoli (1945GMT), Lazio v Juventus (1945GMT)
Sunday (1400GMT unless otherwise stated):
Cagliari v Bologna, Cesena v Genoa, Palermo v Fiorentina, Siena v Inter Milan, AC Milan v Chievo (1945GMT)
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