ROME - The best teams in Serie A face off on Monday when AS Roma host Juventus, with the home side hoping they can reverse the 3-2 defeat they suffered against the champions in October to close the gap at the top of the standings.
Prior to their first meeting, Roma coach Rudi Garcia boasted that his team would win the league because "we're better than them", words the French manager must now be regretting as his side have slipped nine points off the pace in recent weeks.
Roma's dip in form has seen them draw six of their last seven league games to leave themselves in serious danger of being caught by Napoli who, after defeating Sassuolo 2-0 on Monday, are only three points adrift.
The poor run began when Ivorian forward Gervinho left for the Africa Cup of Nations at the beginning of the year and Manuel Iturbe suffered another injury setback a few weeks later.
Garcia's main attacking strategy relied on the pace of the two wingers to break through opposing defences but without them, Roma have become predictably one-dimensional and directionless in possession.
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Gervinho returned to the side two games ago but his contribution has been limited, the player looking jaded from his international exertions in helping Ivory Coast claim a second continental title.
However, according to Garcia, Roma's biggest loss has been "faith in themselves", an opinion shared by talismanic forward Francesco Totti ahead of the side's Europa League clash against Feyenord.
"If we win tomorrow (Thursday), our confidence would grow and our mindset against Juventus would be different," Totti told a news conference on Wednesday.
"One match can turn everything around. If we win tomorrow, we will defeat Juventus."
Roma are in Rotterdam for the second leg of the last-32 tie, facing an uphill task after they could only draw 1-1 against the Dutch side at home.
With a nine-point cushion, Juventus can afford to sit back and wait for Roma to come forward and look to punish their opponents with the same counter-attacking style they adopted on Tuesday to defeat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the Champions League.
Juventus remain on course for a fourth successive title but will line up against Roma without key playmaker Andrea Pirlo, who injured his right calf against the German side.
Juventus coach Massimilano Allegri is likely to replace him with Argentine Roberto Pereyra, who will sit in behind the attackers with Claudio Marchisio moving back slightly to shield the defence.
Napoli visit Torino on Sunday in search of a sixth win in seven games but face an in-form opponent who are undefeated in 11 league matches.
ighth-placed Inter Milan will be looking for a fourth straight win when they host fifth-placed Fiorentina, who currently hold the final Europa League qualifying spot on 39 points, four ahead of their opponents.For the latest on national news, politics, sport, entertainment and more follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page.