Winger Mohamed Salah has confidently predicted Roma will kick-start Luciano Spalletti’s second spell in charge of the club with a victory over Serie A champions Juventus.
Roma have finished runners-up to Juve in each of the past two season, but have fallen considerably short of those levels this time around, leading to Rudi Garcia’s dismissal as head coach.
Spalletti oversaw a 1-1 draw against winless basement boys Verona on his return – a result that was received frostily at the Stadio Olimpico.
But Salah, who impressed when Roma beat Juve 2-1 back in August, believes a Serie A double can be secured over a side who have won 12 of their previous 13 matches in all competitions.
“I think we’re going to win 2-1,” the Egypt international told La Stampa.
“They are really strong, but then again so are we. We have the obligation to aim high.
“It will be a full-throttle contest with both teams gunning for the three points. I don’t see this game ending in a draw.”
Salah shone on a visit to Juventus Stadium with Fiorentina last season, netting a decisive brace in a 2-1 Coppa Italia semi-final first-leg triumph – although Massimiliano Allegri’s men won the return 3-0 as they marched towards a memorable treble.
“That was a great occasion and a magical evening,” Salah said. “As for Sunday we just need that spark to get back to winning ways and setting our targets high.
“There’s a long way to go and we’re not out of anything yet.”
Roma’s recent struggles – the 2-0 win at home to Genoa on December 20 is their only victory in all competitions since beating city rivals Lazio by the same scoreline on November 8 – are in stark contrast to Juve’s recovery from a dreadful start to their title defence.
One win from the opening six fixtures in the league this term left them well off the pace, but, thanks to 10 consecutive league triumphs they now lie two points shy of leaders Napoli in second.
Veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon does not expect Juve to run away with a fifth straight Scudetto on the back of this run and believes they are in for a tough encounter on Sunday.
“The league is finely balanced and the leaders are changing almost every Sunday,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport.
“Nevertheless, there’s a long way to go and the games are open. If we win, Roma will be 10 points [behind Juve] which will be fundamental.
“The Giallorossi are a dangerous team that we should be afraid of. The further away Roma are in the league, the better for us.”
Key Opta stats:
– Juventus have won their last four home league games against Roma.
– On their past 12 visits to face Juve in Turin, Roma claimed their solitary win in January 2010 (D3 L8).
– Only Bayern Munich (37) have conceded fewer shots on target than Juve (48) in the five major European leagues this season.
– Luciano Spalletti has lost 15 of his 18 Serie A matches against Juve and is yet to taste victory.
– Edin Dzeko’s headed goal against Juve in August remains his only Serie A goal not from the penalty spot.