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Roma needs a win against Empoli to keep title dream alive, leader Juventus visits Udinese

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MILAN — Roma has been in something of a free fall since the start of 2015 and is slowly seeing its title dreams fade away.

After kicking off the year with a highly controversial win at Udinese and cutting the gap to Serie A leader Juventus to one point, Roma drew the next three matches to slip seven points behind the defending champion.

Rudi Garcia's team now faces relegation-threatened Empoli, which will also be motivated by revenge after a hotly debatable penalty saw it lose 2-1 at Roma in the Italian Cup, after taking the capital side to extra time.

Roma also has somewhat of a crisis in midfield with Daniele De Rossi and Kevin Strootman joining the list of injury absentees and Seydou Keita away at the African Cup of Nations, along with star striker Gervinho.

Strootman had only recently returned to full fitness after a serious knee injury which forced him to miss the World Cup and sidelined him for several months, but took a blow to the same knee last weekend and has flown to Holland for tests.

Empoli come into Saturday's match desperate for points, as it sits just one above the bottom three and knows that each point could mean the difference between safety and relegation.

It has drawn six of its past eight league matches.

Here are some of the things to know about this weekend's games:


JUVE EYEING A TREBLE

Juventus could be on course for an incredible treble according to their players.

While even the most ardent Juventus fan would struggle to believe its side has a realistic chance of beating the likes of Bayern Munich and Real Madrid to the Champions League trophy, a domestic double of the Italian Cup and a fourth successive league title is very much on the cards.

Juventus has a seven-point advantage in the league over Roma, which it could also face in the cup semifinals after it beat Parma 1-0 on Wednesday to progress.

Roma plays Fiorentina next week in its quarterfinal.

"We want to win every competition we're involved in and I think we've got what it takes to do so," said Juventus striker Alvaro Morata, who scored the late winner.

Juventus visits Udinese on Sunday.

PHOTO: From left, Inter Milan's Mauro Icardi and his teammates Isaac Donkor, Zdravko Kuzmanovic and Fredy Guarin walk on the pitch at the end of a Serie A soccer match between Inter Milan and Torino, at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. Torino won 1-0. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
From left, Inter Milan's Mauro Icardi and his teammates Isaac Donkor, Zdravko Kuzmanovic and Fredy Guarin walk on the pitch at the end of a Serie A soccer match between Inter Milan and Torino, at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. Torino won 1-0. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)


CRISIS MEETS CRISIS

At Christmas, AC Milan appeared to be realistic contenders for the final Champions League place but a sudden slump has sent it tumbling down the table.

Since the start of the year, Milan has lost three of its four league matches and slipped to 11th in Serie A, 10 points off third spot.

Filippo Inzaghi's team suffered its third successive defeat midweek as it crashed out of the Italian Cup, losing 1-0 at home to 10-man Lazio.

However, Milan vice president Adriano Galliani has said that unless there is a "catastrophe of biblical proportions" Inzaghi will remain in charge until the end of the season "and then we'll see."

Galliani made these comments when he was caught out by a prank phone call from a radio station with someone imitating Sampdoria President Massimo Ferrero.

Milan hosts Parma on Sunday night and defeat to the league's bottom side could very well be considered a catastrophe, especially as it would be the side's third straight loss at San Siro.

Milan will be boosted by the signing of Mattia Destro on loan from Roma, and the Italy forward could go straight into the starting lineup.

Parma is in turmoil on and off the pitch. A last-minute goal saw it lose 2-1 to Cesena last weekend in a relegation battle, with Cesena moving three points above it in the bottom three.

Star striker Antonio Cassano terminated his contract by mutual consent on Monday after receiving no wages for six months.


SEVENTH HEAVEN FOR INTER AGAIN?

Sassuolo must be dreading hosting Inter Milan on Sunday.

Just a point separates the two sides, but in two of their last three meetings, Sassuolo lost 7-0 — including back in September.

"You can get a thrashing like that once in life, but we got two," Sassuolo defender Paolo Cannavaro said. "Of course there is a desire for revenge, but we must not think only of the 7-0 because sometimes when you are too charged up in the build up to the match you risk a drop before the start."

Sassuolo has also never scored against Inter in its two seasons in the top flight, losing the other match 1-0.

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