ROME, February 11- Struggling Juventus host high-flying Inter Milan in the 'derby of Italy' this weekend with Juve's midfielder Felipe Melo insisting the Old Lady of Turin must win if they are to turn their season around.
Juve are down in eighth place after losing five of their nine matches in all competitions since the turn of the year.
Rejuvenated Inter, on the other hand, are on a run of nine wins in 10 matches under new boss Leonardo and sit third in the table but with a game in hand on the two teams above them.
If they win that they would go second, only two points behind leaders and bitter city rivals AC Milan.
It has been a remarkable comeback from Inter who trailed Milan by 13 points (with a game in hand) in mid-December.
But Juve are hoping to use this game as a catalyst for their own return to form and winning ways.
"The game against Inter is very special, it’s eagerly anticipated," said Brazilian star Melo.
"It’s the derby of Italy and it could have an effect on morale as well as on the table. A defeat could leave you on your knees but a victory could send you to the stars.
"We’re training well and hard because we want to win this match, at all costs."
But while Melo doesn’t believe Juve are in any shape to challenge for the title this season, he says they need to focus on achieving a top four finish and playing Champions League football next season.
Although their recent form has been poor, they did at least win 3-1 at Cagliari in their last outing.
"The victory over Cagliari put us back in the running for a Champions League finish and now we have to fight in every game," he said.
"It’s too early to say where we could finish, the numbers will be counted up in two months’ time, but we have to try to go as far as we can."
Inter for their part are focussing on catching Milan and controversial centre-back Marco Materazzi aimed an unsubtle dig at previous boss Rafael Benitez for their poor start to the season whilst also mocking those who hail their neighbours’ strengths.
"The championship is long and ahead of us we have a team that is too strong to catch and us, poor little ones, we’re doing everything to make up for the mistakes made in the first six months," he said.
Milan host Parma on Saturday night but even so, coach Massimiliano Allegri’s thoughts invariably turn to Inter.
"I’ve never known the title in Italy to be won two months before the end of the season," he said.
"Everyone would have liked that but right now we’re in good shape.
"We know how Inter have come back into the title race, Napoli are having a great season and Roma are in there too.
"What we need to do is concentrate so we can do our best in the decisive part of the season."
Allegri may believe Roma are still in the hunt but following last week’s 5-3 defeat at Inter, they dropped to 10 points off the pace, although with a game in hand.
They host Napoli in a huge clash at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico on Saturday and, realistically, a defeat would all but mathematically end Roma’s interest in the scudetto crown.
The giallorossi won’t be helped either by the fact that two of coach Claudio Ranieri’s three regular centre-backs — Philippe Mexes and Nicolas Burdisso — are out suspended.
A makeshift defence is hardly the ideal way to combat Napoli and their "three wonders" – Serie A top scorer Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik.
Fixtures (1400 GMT unless stated):
AC Milan v Parma (1700), Roma v Napoli (1945)
Palermo v Fiorentina (1130), Bari v Genoa, Brescia v Lazio, Cagliari v Chievo, Catania v Lecce, Cesena v Udinese, Sampdoria v Bologna, Juventus v Inter Milan (1945)