MILAN – Second-placed AS Roma host leaders Juventus in Serie A on Sunday but rather than thinking about trying to catch the runaway leaders they will be looking over their shoulders at their rivals for an automatic Champions League berth.
Juventus need only a point to wrap up their sixth successive title and, even if they lose, will still have two more chances at home to Crotone and away to Bologna.
Roma have a one-point cushion over Napoli and need to finish second to qualify for the Champions League group stage.
Third place would mean a spot in the final playoff round where Italian teams have suffered six defeats in the last eight seasons.
Juve are seven points clear of Roma and eight ahead of Napoli with three games each left. If Juve and Napoli finish level on points, the Turin side would take the title on their better head-to-head record.
Roma enjoyed a 4-1 win away to AC Milan last Sunday yet the harmony at the club has been disrupted by the uncomfortable Francesco Totti situation.
Roma said last week that the 40-year-old, who has spent his entire career at the club, would stop playing at the end of the season and move to a boardroom role.
Totti, who has mainly been restricted to cameo appearances, was left on the bench again on Sunday for what would have been his last appearance at Milan’s San Siro.
When asked why he had not given Totti a run, exasperated coach Luciano Spalletti said he would never have come to the club in the first place if he knew it was going to be such a thorny subject.
Totti then told reporters at an event in Rome on Wednesday that he did not know if he would stop at the end of the season, but later said on Twitter that he had been joking and there would be “time to talk.”
Roma will also be without Serie A’s leading scorer Edin Dzeko after the Bosnian forward, who has scored 27 league goals, suffered a calf strain.
For Juventus, wrapping up the title would complete the first stage on the way to a league, Cup and Champions League treble.
Coach Massimiliano Allegri said he wanted the league settled on Sunday so his side could concentrate on preparing for the Champions League final against Real Madrid in Cardiff on June 3.
“We have to get the result against Roma or risk putting the Scudetto back in doubt,” he said. There’s also the Coppa Italia final on May 17.
Napoli have a difficult match away to Torino while Inter Milan will be under the third coach of the season when they host Sassuolo, hoping to end a run of seven games without a win that has seen them drop to seventh, outside the Europa League places.
Youth coach Stefano Vecchi will replace Stefano Pioli, who was sacked on Tuesday after six months in the post
(Writing by Brian Homewood’ Editing by Peter Rutherford)