MILAN, Italy– Lazio are ready to pounce to hammer home their Serie A ambitions when they host Bologna on Saturday before title-rivals Juventus and Inter Milan clash behind closed doors in Turin because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The Romans are one point behind leaders Juventus with Inter Milan six points adrift with a game in hand, after last weekend’s match against Sampdoria was postponed because of the virus epidemic in Italy.
Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio are on a 20-match unbeaten run in the league as they target their first Scudetto in two decades.
The Serie A calendar has been thrown into turmoil by the spread of coronavirus which has infected 650 people and killed 17 in Italy.
Four matches last weekend were postponed, and five will be played behind closed doors this weekend.
In addition to Juventus versus Inter Milan, the others are Udinese against Fiorentina; AC Milan at home to Genoa, Parma against SPAL and Sassuolo at home to Brescia.
A decision has yet to be made on Monday’s game between Sampdoria and Hellas Verona.
Lazio will be able to count on their home crowd at the Stadio Olimpico as they push to pull ahead of the leaders.
But Sinisa Mihajlovic’s side have won four of their last five away matches and will be looking for their first win in Rome in eight years.
Juventus are reeling after their Champions League last 16, first leg defeat in Lyon, and need a result against Inter to keep their bid for a ninth Serie A title firmly on track.
“I am confident, because we are a united group,” said Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey.
“Let’s focus on ourselves, and do better starting on Sunday with Inter. For the return leg we want to secure a result in front of the fans.”
It will also mark the return of Inter coach Antonio Conte to Turin where he played for 13 years and coached Juventus to three Serie A titles in their current run of eight.
“We have started this cycle of demanding games,” said Conte.
“At the end of this cycle we will understand how far we are from winning,”
In the race for Champions League, Atalanta travel south to Lecce for their first game after their stunning 4-1 European win over Valencia, after last weekend’s match was called off.
The Bergamo side are in fourth three points ahead of Roma who visit Cagliari, after sealing their berth in the Europa League last 16 against Ghent.
Last seaason’s runners-up Napoli, in sixth, occupy the final Europa League berth, and will push their revival under Gennaro Gattuso against floundering Torino, days after holding Barcelona 1-1 in the Champions League.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s AC Milan are just behind Napoli on goal difference in seventh and host relegation-threatened Genoa at an empty San Siro.
One to watch
Cristiano Ronaldo can push his scoring streak to a record 12 consecutive league games to overtake the mark he currently shares with Gabriel Batistuta and Fabio Quagliarella. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has scored 25 goals in all competitions this season for Juventus, including 16 on his current run of 11 league matches. The Portuguese striker has never scored in 12 league matches in a row in his career.
13 – Lazio’s unbeaten run against Bologna
12 – Inter’s Romelu Lukaku’s away goals this season
5 – Games set to be played behind closed doors
5 – Torino’s losing streak
1 – Points between Juventus and second-placed Lazio
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Lazio v Bologna (1400GMT), Udinese v Fiorentina (1700), Napoli v Torino (1945)
AC Milan v Genoa (1130), Lecce v Atalanta, Parma v SPAL, Sassuolo v Brescia (1400), Cagliari v AS Roma (1700), Juventus v Inter Milan (1945)
Sampdoria v Hellas Verona (1945)