MILAN, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Serie A leaders Juventus face a showdown with second-placed AS Roma on Saturday, the sort of situation they revel in and where they are generally at their most dangerous.
Roma go into the game at the Juventus Stadium a tantalising four points behind the Turin side, knowing a win would open up the title race and give them real hope of ending the home team’s run of five successive league crowns.
A Juve victory, though, would send them seven points clear and more than likely turn this year’s championship into yet another one-horse race.
“We will have the chance to play for the title and we’ll do it knowing that we deserved this opportunity,” said Roma coach Luciano Spalletti.
“We want to compete until the end but we face a very tough opponent. it’s a unique opportunity to close the gap.”
Juve are past masters at winning such games, as Roma are only too well aware.
Two seasons ago the teams met in early October after each won their first five matches.
An enthralling contest saw Juve convert two controversial penalties before Leonardo Bonucci’s late volley gave them an epic 3-2 triumph.
That prompted Roma captain Francesco Totti to say Juve “always win by hook or by crook”, a remark angrily rejected by his opponents.
When they met again in March, Juve were nine points clear and a 1-1 draw in another bad-tempered game, that saw nine players booked and one sent off, virtually sealed the crown.
The Turin club eventually finished 17 points clear of the field.
The previous season saw Roma top after 12 games before Juve overtook them.
By the time the sides met in early January, Juve had gone five points clear and it was last-chance saloon for Roma.
Juve’s 3-0 victory effectively ended the contest and they went on to win by 17 points with Roma again in second.
Last season’s title race hinged on a match between Juve and Napoli in February.
Napoli, who started with a two-point lead, had the better of the encounter only to be sunk by an 86th-minute goal from substitute Simone Zaza who had barely featured all season.
Juve never looked back and won 11 of their final 13 matches to finish nine points clear.
Ominously, things appear to be clicking into place for the leaders with midfielder Claudio Marchisio, forward Paulo Dybala and defender Giorgio Chiellini back from injury and Roma missing forward Mohamed Salah. (Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Tony Jimenez)