Lazio face Inter dilemma

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ROME, April 30- Lazio fans are faced with a dilemma this weekend as the Roman club hosts champions Inter Milan at the Stadio Olimpico.Inter are embroiled in a tense title battle with Lazio’s bitter local rivals AS Roma and their fans know that if their club beats the nerazzurri on Sunday, they could help Roma win the scudetto.

With three games left, Inter lead Roma by two points and Lazio’s fans would hate nothing more than to do their Rome rivals a favour.

But Lazio are not clear of relegation and coach Eddy Reja insists that he won’t be following the lead of some fans, who have claimed they will be supporting Inter.

"We know that it’s like this but we’re not safe yet. If we play like we did (last time out against Genoa) I don’t think we’ll lose to Inter," he said.

"I’m sure we’ll get a result, also because we need to. We’ll tackle Inter as we did Roma (two weeks ago).

"The derby didn’t go well (a 2-1 defeat) but we hope things will change against Inter. It will be difficult because we’re playing against a top drawer team but we’ll try."

Lazio are six points from the dreaded drop zone with three games left and know that any result will virtually assure them of safety while either a win or a draw could ensure they stay up should Atalanta lose.

They are in good form having won four of their last five games, including a 2-1 success at Genoa last weekend.

Not to mention that Inter will be tired from their gruelling defensive efforts in Barcelona on Wednesday night.

Coach Jose Mourinho knows how vulnerable his team will be after a tough European commitment away from home and has called on the club’s fans to descend in their droves on the capital, although he probably wasn’t expecting supporters wearing sky blue to also be cheering for his team.

Inter may have already dropped to second by the time they take to the field on Sunday as Roma travel to Parma on Saturday evening looking to rebound from their shock 2-1 home defeat to Sampdoria last weekend.

That defeat, after a 24-match unbeaten run in the league, did much to deflate the growing euphoria that had developped amongst the club’s fans as they saw their team wipe out a 14-point deficit to Inter since November and actually overtake the champions.

But while the fans have calmed down over the last week, the players and staff at Roma seemed happy at Inter’s Champions League progress, possibly hoping that the final will occupy the players’ thoughts and distract them from domestic matters.

"Inter were solid, organised and tenacious against Barcelona," said Roma captain Francesco Totti on the club’s website.

"Congratulations to the nerazzurri on reaching the final. Considering how they played at home and away they undoubtedly deserved to go through."

Roma’s three remaining opponents, starting with Parma, are all in mid-table safety with no hope either of qualifying for Europe or of getting relegated.

But Roma’s problem last week was an inability to convert their chances in the first half against Sampdoria, during which time they should have put the game to bed.

They will have to be more clinical this time out if they are to stand any chance of capturing the title.

Elsewhere the battle for fourth place and the final Champions League spot is raging with Sampdoria in pole position and hosting rock-bottom and already relegated Livorno.

Palermo trail them by two points and face a trip to Siena who are all but mathematically down.

Atalanta occupy the final relegation position and trail Bologna by five points, knowing that if they lose to their opponents they will be down.

Fixtures:

Saturday

AC Milan v Fiorentina, Parma v AS Roma

Sunday

Atalanta v Bologna, Bari v Genoa, Cagliari v Udinese, Catania v Juventus, Chievo v Napoli, Lazio v Inter Milan, Sampdoria v Livorno, Siena v Palermo

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