Roma ready for derby success

Rome, Italy ( - Roma and Lazio will once again square off for bragging rights in the Italian capital on Sunday in one of the most intense rivalries in the European game.

Roma enters the fixture just one point adrift of leaders Juventus after Rudi Garcia's men were able to close the gap on Tuesday with a 1-0 win over Udinese that was followed by Juve's 1-1 draw against Inter Milan.

A win over Lazio on Sunday would briefly take Roma ahead of the three-time defending champions in the table, and defender Davide Astori is relishing an important part of Roma's season.

"Now the fun begins, because we have closed the gap on the top of the table," Astori told Radio Roma.

"Every point now becomes important, not decisive, but really something to think about. On Sunday we have the first opportunity to go above Juventus.

"We have the ability to be a great team, we need results such as the ones which could occur on Sunday to boost our confidence."

Lazio is nine points back of Roma entering the weekend, but the club finds itself level with Napoli on 30 points in third place, and a win would be huge as the club pushes for a Champions League place.

After securing a 3-0 win over Sampdoria to begin 2015, Lazio will now turn its attention to notching a first derby success in league play since November 2012, although the team did beat Roma in the 2013 Coppa Italia final.

Lazio has earned 10 of a possible 12 points from its last four matches, so expect another heated encounter between these two Serie A contenders.

If Roma is able to beat Lazio earlier in the day on Sunday, Juventus will need three points against Napoli to return to the summit, something that won't be easy.

Napoli comes into the fixture level with Lazio for the third and final Champions League place, and Rafael Benitez's side has won its last two games, including a 4-1 win over Cesena in midweek.

In between those two league wins, Napoli also beat Juventus on penalty kicks in the Supercoppa in a match played in Qatar.

With the top four teams squaring off against each other, Genoa and Sampdoria should have a chance to gain some ground this weekend as they continue to chase European places for next season.

The two sides are currently level on 27 points, three outside a spot in the top four, and both will be eager to close that gap this weekend.

Genoa faces the tougher match of the two on Sunday with a trip to Inter Milan, while Sampdoria hosts bottom-half side Empoli.

AC Milan is five points away from a Champions League place and the Rossoneri travels to Torino on Saturday, with the other match that day featuring a mid- table clash between Udinese and Sassuolo.

Atalanta hosts Chievo with both sides sitting just above the relegation places, Cagliari meets Cesena in a battle of bottom-three outfits, Palermo invades Fiorentina and second-from-the-bottom Parma hits the road to face Hellas Verona.