3 October 2014 12:31
Juventus and Roma will look to draw first blood in the race at Serie A’s summit in Sunday’s eagerly awaited top-of-the-table Turin clash.
The pre-season title favourites will battle for the first time this term at the Juventus Stadium with at least one 100 per cent winning record sure to end.
Defending champions Juve, who sit top on goal difference, have dominated in recent seasons, winning three straight league titles under the stewardship of Antonio Conte – including last season as they finished 17 points ahead of Roma.
Conte has since departed for the Italy job, but Juve have started well under new coach Massimiliano Allegri – winning all five of their league matches without conceding a goal.
Having completed a league double over Roma last term, including a 3-0 win in the corresponding fixture in January, Juve will perhaps start as slim favourites.
But it would be foolhardy to see Sunday’s clash as a foregone conclusion, with Roma having shown a dramatic improvement under Rudi Garcia in the last 16 months.
After guiding Roma to an impressive second-placed finish last term, Garcia strengthened his squad in the close-season with the likes of Ashley Cole, Juan Iturbe and Urby Emanuelson.
The new charges have settled in well, Roma too boast five wins from five and have conceded just once.
Part of Roma’s success is down to the performances of evergreen captain Francesco Totti, who this week became the oldest goalscorer in UEFA Champions League history with the equaliser in their impressive 1-1 draw at Manchester City.
The 38-year-old is well aware that Roma’s early-season form counts for nothing yet, though.
“The problem is that we have not won anything yet,” he told La Repubblica. “We have experienced some beautiful moments, but in the end what counts is the result.”
Juve skipper Giorgio Chiellini was in equally bullish mood ahead of the intriguing contest and he insists Sunday’s result has no bearing on the destination of the Serie A title.
“The game won’t determine anything given that it’s still early days,” he told Sky Sport Italia.
“We’ve both begun the campaign in good form and it’ll be a tense match where it’s vital we take our chances.”
Juve, who are looking to bounce back from Wednesday’s 1-0 Champions League loss at Atletico Madrid, are once more without Andrea Barzagli (heel) who will visit a specialist in the coming days.
Allegri also has concerns over striker Alvaro Morata (gluteal) and Martin Caceres (shoulder), while Andrea Pirlo (hip) is yet to have featured this term.
For Roma, Iturbe could be handed a start after recovering from a calf complaint to come off the bench against City, but Daniele De Rossi (calf) and Kevin Strootman (knee) are both still out.