Roma set for Samp test, leaders Juve host Chievo
Sampdoria coach Sinisa Mihajlovic will put his close friendship with Roma captain Francesco Totti to one side in a bid to hand the Serie A title contenders their second shock of the week.
Roma took a 3-2 advantage over Napoli into their Italian Cup semi-final second leg on Wednesday but departed with their tails between their legs after a 3-0 rout by Rafael Benitez's side, who will now meet Fiorentina in the Cup final.
Rudi Garcia's Roma have so far done well to stay in touch with leaders Juventus -- they are nine points behind with a game in hand -- and keep Antonio Conte's champions on their toes as they bid for a third successive scudetto.
But while Juventus are expected to claim an easy three points at home against a Chievo side who are just one point above the drop zone, Roma's task against Sampdoria is not quite so straightforward.
Mihajlovic remains friends with Roma captain and icon Totti but the former Lazio midfielder expects his side to play to the open, attacking game that has helped him steer them out of the danger zone to just below mid-table since his appointment two months ago.
"I've told the lads to play our usual style, even in these big games because having this mentality then makes it easier to beat the team who have our level," Mihajlovic told the Corriere dello Sport.
"Maybe on Sunday we can give Roma most problems on the counter-attack, but it doesn't really matter.
"If we had to, we'd settle for a draw although I'm convinced we will score anyway. That's why I prefer an open style of game -- afterwards, none of us can have any regrets."
After Wednesday's shocker, Garcia expects a reaction from his side, whom he said were not clinical enough in both legs of their Italian Cup semi.
"We definitely need to take our chances better. We must get certain efforts on target: you have to score when you have those chances," said the Frenchman.
"That said, we should think positively because we're creating chances. The key lies in being more clinical."
Roma will be expected to beat Parma when their game, postponed due to heavy rain two weeks ago, is finally played.
- Closed chapter -
But the fact Garcia is taking nothing for granted means a win against Sampdoria could be crucial.
"For the moment we're four points ahead of Napoli in Serie A and we could stretch that lead further if we win our game in hand against Parma, although we still need to play that match," he added.
"The Cup is a closed chapter for us now and we'll open the league chapter again: it's crucial that we beat Sampdoria at the Olimpico on Sunday."
Juve coach Antonio Conte will expect nothing less than three points from his side at home to Chievo, although his plans to give Mirko Vucinic a rare start fell flat after the striker was ruled out for several weeks with a sprainted knee.
Conte could reshuffle his midfield trio of Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo by bringing in Claudio Marchisio, according to reports.
Napoli are third, four points adrift of Roma and 13 behind Juve, and are also in action on Sunday away to relegation-threatened Sassuolo.
In Saturday's only game, Fiorentina host Inter in a match deemed important for both sides' chances of qualifying for Europe next season.
Fiorentina are fourth, three points behind Napoli, but with an eight-point lead on Walter Mazzarri's men.
Struggling Milan, meanwhile, host Bologna on Friday in a match brought forward due to the Champions League first leg last 16 clash at home to Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Milan v Bologna (1945)
Fiorentina v Inter (1945)
Catania v Lazio (1130), Atalanta v Parma, Cagliari v Livorno, Genoa v Udinese, Juventus v Chievo, Sassuolo v Napoli (all 1400), Roma v Sampdoria (1945)
Verona v Torino (1945)