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Napoli meet Roma in battle for Champions League spot

02 April 2015, 20:27

Milan - The battle for a Champions League place should add extra spice to Saturday's meeting of old rivals AS Roma and Napoli, yet the build up to the game suggests it could be played in a lukewarm atmosphere.

Both teams have suffered a recent slip in form and this, combined with a Saturday lunchtime kickoff and the fears of fan violence surrounding the fixture, is expected to leave the Stadio Olimpico half empty.

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Roma's grip on second place has been slowly loosened since the start of the year, and their nine-point cushion over third place has been slashed to one point, while they have dropped 14 points behind runaway leaders Juventus.

Meanwhile, Napoli have dropped from third to fifth after failing to win any of their last four Serie A games.

Only the top two in Serie A qualify directly for the Champions League group stage while third place earns a place in the final qualifying round.

Roma have drawn eight of their last 11 league games and even the international break added to the troubles as forward Gervinho suffered a thigh injury in Ivory Coast's friendly against Equatorial Guinea on Sunday.

The hosts may also be without talismanic forward Francesco Totti who is still recovering from a thigh injury.

Although much is at stake, Roma's disappointing recent form and the early kickoff could result in the match being played in a half-empty Stadio Olimpico.

Local media said that only 5,000 tickets have been sold so far and predicted a crowd of around 40,000, around half the stadium's capacity.

There is still tension around the fixture after Napoli's visit to Rome for last season's Coppa Italia final.

Although Napoli were facing Fiorentina, there were violent clashes between Napoli and Roma fans, during which Napoli fan Ciro Esposito was shot and died in hospital one month later.

Tickets will not be sold to residents of Naples, although Napoli fans who live elsewhere in Italy can buy them.

Seven points separate Roma (53) in second from Fiorentina (46) in sixth in the race for Champions League places, with Lazio (52), Sampdoria (48) and Napoli (47) sandwiched between.

In another key match on Saturday, Sampdoria coach Sinisa Mihajlovic returns to his former club as his side visit Fiorentina (1630).

Fiorentina have found a new lease of life since signing Egypt forward Mohamed Salah from Chelsea in part exchange for Juan Cuadrado.

Lazio, who have leapt into third place with a run of six straight wins, visit relegation candidates Cagliari in a match they would expect to win (1300).

"Having Roma in front of us certainly gives us extra motivation," said captain Stefano Mauri. "For us, finishing second would be like winning the scudetto."

Juventus, meanwhile, should chalk up another win, and move closer to a fourth successive title, when they host Empoli (Saturday, 1900).

- Reuters


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