ROME, February 18 – Inter Milan kept up their title push in midweek with a crucial 2-1 victory away to Fiorentina meaning they could close the gap on leaders AC Milan to two points with victory over Cagliari on Saturday.
With their bitter city rivals kicking off a day later, Leonardo’s men have the chance to keep the pressure on and try to increase the pressure on the rossoneri.
Milan have a tricky trip to Chievo to negotiate as they lick their wounds from their humbling midweek defeat at home to Tottenham in the Champions League.
And they will be watching nervously as Inter — with eight wins in their last 10 league games — host the Sardinians.
Leonardo proved just how much this game means to him in midweek as he shouted himself hoarse during the Fiorentina victory, meaning he had to send his assistant Giuseppe Baresi to take care of post-match duties.
And Inter could be boosted by the return of Brazil centre-back Lucio for the game on Saturday.
It is an ominous sign for the other title chasers that Inter have been reeling in everyone else despite their first choice centre-backs (the other being Walter Samuel) sitting on the sidelines.
"I don’t know if I’ll be back already on Saturday against Cagliari or on Wednesday in the Champions League," said Lucio.
Inter face a rerun of last season’s Champions League final in the second round against Germans Bayern Munich.
It means the games are coming thick and fast at this stage of the season and Inter have come in for some stick lately for leaking too many goals.
But Lucio insists they have the right balance as they are also banging them in for fun.
"We’ve scored many because we’re playing in a very attacking way so it’s normal to suffer a bit more at the back, the important thing though is to win," he added.
The current gap between Inter and Milan is five points but with the Milan derby to come soon, Lucio believes there is still plenty of time to catch and overtake their neighbours.
"I always believe in my Inter who have played well recently. There’s still a lot of games left and the team with the most strength and most quality will win.
"Not everyone has an equal chance as Milan are slightly ahead but we’re still dreaming of the title."
Milan meanwhile are also having to mop up the furore surrounding Gennaro Gattuso’s behaviour against Spurs.
The combative midfielder lost his head by his own admission and headbutted Spurs assistant Joe Jordan, for which he is likely to receive a lengthy European ban.
But their problems pale into insignifance next to Roma who have now lost three games in a row and risk seeing their season fall apart.
Successive defeats to third-placed Inter and second-placed Napoli virtually ruled them out of the title running.
They are now down in eighth and 13 points off the pace, although with a game in hand.
But to make matters worse they were then beaten at home by Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League and in three weeks time could be left with only the Italian Cup to keep them occupied.
Napoli, on the other hand, continue to go from strength to strength and must be eyeing top spot.
They host lowly Catania on Sunday night before travelling to Milan a week later – though they have a Europa League last 32 second leg clash with Villarreal to negotiate in between with it tied at 0-0 – knowing that a pair of victories could see them take over the scudetto leadership.
However, they will have to do without influential forward Ezequiel Lavezzi, serving a three-game ban for spitting.
Fixtures (1400 GMT unless stated):
Bologna v Palermo (1700), Inter Milan v Cagliari (1945)
Lecce v Juventus (1130), Chievo v AC Milan, Fiorentina v Sampdoria, Genoa v Roma, Lazio v Bari, Parma v Cesena, Udinese v Brescia, Napoli v Catania (1945)