ROME, February 4- Champions Inter Milan and Roma face a crucial clash at the San Siro this weekend as both sides try to stay in the scudetto hunt.
Inter pipped Roma to the title by two points last year as they finished as the top two for the fourth time in five years — with Inter winning the championship every time.
But this time around both have been left lagging in leaders AC Milan’s wake and defeat in Sunday’s game could prove terminal for either side’s trophy hopes.
With just 15 games left, this would be a bad time to start losing touch with the teams above but Roma club captain Francesco Totti insists there is still a long way to go.
Asked about his own lack of goals this season — he has scored just three times in 19 league games — Totti claimed he would soon click into gear.
"There’s still a long way to go in the championship and my goals will come," he said.
"It’s a vital match, if we get a result on Sunday we’ll be able to remain hot on AC Milan’s heels, even though right now we’re nine points back with a game in hand."
Milan have stumbled several times since the turn of the year but both Roma and third-placed Inter have failed to take full advantage, themselves slipping up when there was the opporunity to close the gap.
However, things are going a lot better for both of them than for Italy’s most successful side, Juventus.
Following the disaster of last season when Juve finished seventh and went through two coaches, they spent big in the summer and hired Luigi Delneri to revive the club’s fortunes.
Things started out well enough this season but they have completely lost their way since the turn of the year, losing five out of eight games in all competitions, including their last three.
They come into the weekend games in eighth place with a tricky trip to Cagliari looming on the horizon.
They lost 2-1 at Palermo in midweek, increasing the pressure on Delneri, who responded by blaming refereeing decisions.
"The club will evaluate at the end of the season if I’ve done well or not," he said.
"We need to push on from the desire we showed (against Palermo) but then if there are two or three penalties that don’t get given it becomes difficult, also for the coach."
Milan travel to Genoa looking to maintain the five-point lead at the top they extended in midweek despite a 0-0 draw at home to Lazio.
Napoli failed to capitalise as they produced a listless display in losing 2-0 at Chievo.
However, they return home to host struggling Cesena on Sunday while Lazio entertain Chievo.
Of the other sides challenging for a Champions League finish, Udinese host struggling Sampdoria, who have lost their way since Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini left in the January transfer window, and Palermo travel to lowly Lecce.
Fixtures (1400 GMT unless stated)
Udinese v Sampdoria (1700), Cagliari v Juventus (1945)
Bologna v Catania (1130), Brescia v Bari, Genoa v AC Milan, Lazio v Chievo, Lecce v Palermo, Napoli v Cesena, Parma v Fiorentina, Inter Milan v Roma