Roma looks to end on a high after mixed fortunes
18 December 2014, 18:25
Rome - It has been a mixed fortnight for Roma and coach Rudi Garcia.
After being knocked out the Champions League, Roma cut the gap to Serie A leader Juventus to one point last weekend. However, that 1-0 win over Genoa proved costly for Garcia as he has been banned for two matches for allegedly attempting to assault a steward.
Roma has vowed to appeal the ban and it remains to be seen whether Garcia, who was named French coach of the year last week, can take his place on the touchlines for the last match of the 2014 against AC Milan on Saturday.
"Following the unfounded accusations which have been levelled against me and the resulting sanctions, I denounce this intolerable attack on my honor and my reputation," Garcia said. "I will fight with every means available to me to defend myself against this injustice and this lie."
Juventus visits Cagliari on Thursday in its last fixture before the winter break, while Inter Milan hosts Lazio on Sunday night in the final Serie A fixture of 2014.
Bottom club Parma also plays Thursday, away at Napoli, with coach Roberto Donadoni hanging on to his job after 12 defeats in 14 matches and a recent change in ownership of the club.
Here are some things to know about this weekend's matches:
AC Milan travels to the capital in confident mood and looking to underline its bid for a Champions League spot.
New coach Filippo Inzaghi appears to be settling in well and enthusiasm is growing in the red half of Milan, with one defeat in five matches.
Milan is sixth, two points behind a cluster of three teams — Lazio, Sampdoria and Genoa — all on 26 points.
One of the surprising stars of Milan's season so far has been midfielder Giacomo Bonaventura, who signed from Atalanta in the final hours of the summer transfer window.
"We'll try for third spot," said Bonaventura, who scored in last weekend's 2-0 win over Napoli. "We have a squad that is of the right level, with important players.
"We have to be ambitious. The match against Roma will show us at what point we're at in our development."
FIGHT FOR THIRD
The battle for third spot is heating up.
Lazio, Sampdoria and Genoa all have 26 points, with AC Milan and Napoli two points behind and Fiorentina a point further back.
Lazio — which leads on goal difference — visits Inter Milan on Sunday, while Sampdoria hosts Udinese and Genoa visits Torino.
Inter is 11th, but only six points off third spot following Roberto Mancini's first win since his return to the club.
Lazio will be looking to end the year on a high and pick up its third successive win.
"We wanted to step up a gear before the break," Lazio defender Lorik Cana said. "If we want to remain up there, it all depends on us."
DERBY DELLA SCALA
It will be a merry Christmas for one half of Verona as the city's two teams face each other in the final match of the year on Sunday.
Both are struggling at the wrong end of the table, but Chievo Verona has seen a change in fortune since changing manager and last weekend's loss to Inter Milan was its first defeat in six matches.
Hellas Verona has four more points than its city rival but has slipped down the table after a run of three consecutive defeats, which was ended by last weekend's win at Udinese.
"If we beat Chievo, our season will once again be considered exceptional," said star striker Luca Toni, who hit his 300th career goal against Udinese. "Because for a club like Verona it's normal to be fighting for safety, not to be mid table."
The fierce rivals have played each other just 12 times, with five wins each and two draws.
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