MILAN (Reuters) - After a traumatic week for Italian football, Serie A resumes at the weekend with three heavyweight clashes which could lift the gloom following the country’s World Cup elimination.
Although the national team has floundered, this season’s Serie A race is one of the most open for years with only five points separating the top five teams after nearly one third of the campaign.
The weekend opens with a Rome derby on Saturday where, for the first time in several years, both AS Roma and Lazio are enjoying good runs of form at the same time.
Both look capable of mounting a title challenge after winning nine of their first 11 Serie A games, with Lazio lying fourth on 28 points and Roma one behind them in fifth on 27.
The Derby della Capitale also pits Serie A’s best defence -- Roma with seven goals conceded -- against one of the strongest attacks, with Lazio having scored 31 goals.
Eusebio Di Francesco, who will be coaching Roma for the first time in the derby, said he hoped his team would not lose momentum after the 10-day international break.
“The team is on the up, it’s a shame about the break although it’s part of the game. I hope we can start again where we left off,” he said.
Di Francesco spent four seasons of his playing career at Roma and has experienced the significance of the match at first hand.
“The first time that I played in it, we walked in front of the fans during the warm-up. My legs never used to tremble before a game but I have to say, that was a unique emotion. It’s never been like the other matches.”
Leaders Napoli, who have 32 points from a possible 36, host an AC Milan side still struggling to justify their 200 million euros spending spree in another of Saturday’s games.
Titleholders Juventus, one point behind Napoli, will visit Sampdoria, who have a 100 percent home record, on Sunday.
Writing by Brian Homewood in Bern, editing by Pritha Sarkar