Roma trip to Genoa a possible gift for Juve

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Francesco Totti and his fellow Roma players face Genoa on Saturday. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP
09:13 CET+01:00
Roma return reluctantly to domestic duty on Sunday with a tough trip to Genoa that has the potential to see leaders Juventus, at home to Sampdoria, stretch their Serie A lead to six points.

Roma's hopes of ending a four-year wait to join the Champions League last 16 were ended in a 2-0 defeat to Manchester City at the Stadio Olimpico.

Rudi Garcia's men finished third in Group A to drop into the last 32 of the Europa League, but amid their push for a first scudetto since 2011 a trip to Genoa could not have come at a worse time.

Having beaten Juventus and Milan at home, the latter victory coming last week, Genoa are up to a surprise third place above Napoli, Milan and struggling Inter.

Garcia is already thinking of next year's campaign in Europe and admitted on Wednesday: "To make sure we qualify for the Champions League we need to have a great season and that starts with Sunday's game against Genoa.

"The Europa League is a good competition and we'll try and go all the way, but our main objective is still Serie A."

Garcia has been defiant on Roma's intended challenge to Juventus, who have won the last three titles and secured their ticket for the Champions League knockout phase on Tuesday, and it has not gone unnoticed.

On the night Roma's last 16 hopes faded, former Juventus midfielder and current club board member Pavel Nedved stuck the boot in in timely fashion.

"They talk while we get on with the hard work, and you can see the result of that," Nedved said in Gazzetta dello Sport.

Juventus defender Angelo Ogbonna is expected to step in for suspended Giorgio Chiellini for Sunday's early game at home to fourth-placed Sampdoria, whose relative success under Mihajlovic has not gone unnoticed.

Sampdoria sit 10 points behind Juve and only one point behind Genoa, prompting interest in Italy strikers Stefano Okaka and Manolo Gabbiadini from rival clubs.

Okaka has been linked to both Inter and Milan, while Gabbiadini - co-owned by Samp and Juventus - could join Napoli during the winter transfer window according to recent reports.

Sampdoria are unbeaten in five games including last week's 3-1 win away to Verona, prompting praise from former Italy coach Marcello Lippi, who spent ten years as a player with Sampdoria and five at the helm of Juventus.

"Right now Juventus are easily the strongest team in Italy... but Sampdoria are having an extraordinary season, they can get any result against any team, including the upcoming one this Sunday," Lippi told Corriere Mercantile.

A week after their 1-0 defeat away to Genoa, Milan host Napoli at the San Siro looking for a win that would push them into the top five and closer to their target of a third-place finish.

If nothing else, it should at least remind Milan coach Filippo Inzaghi of what it's like to play in the Champions League.

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The former striker scored twice in a 2-1 win over Liverpool, then coached by current Napoli handler Rafael Benitez, to clinch Milan's seventh and last trophy in 2007.

City rivals Inter have an arguably easier fixture away to Chievo, but the pressure is on amid a three-game winless streak since Roberto Mancini took over last month.

Inter's shock 2-1 home defeat to Udinese last week left them in 12th place, 18 points behind Juve and nine points behind Genoa in the last Champions League qualifying spot.

"We had a poor result against Udinese and we didn't play well, but we're working on turning things around," said Mancini.

Cash-strapped basement side Parma, meanwhile, host Cagliari looking to bounce back only a few days after being docked a point by Italian Federation officials for failing to pay players' salaries.

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