JUVENTUS and Sampdoria, both three points off the pace in Italy's Serie A, meet this afternoon in a game that may well end the title aspirations of whoever loses. If the champions and league leaders, Milan, beat Piacenza at home and Juventus and Sampdoria avoid a draw, the gap between the first- and third-placed teams would stretch to five points.
Today's opposing strikers, Roberto Baggio, of Juventus, and Roberto Mancini, of Sampdoria, realise that both sides need to win. 'Sampdoria versus Juventus is a play-off that involves a third party,' Mancini said, while according to Baggio, 'Either we win or Milan begin to leave us behind.'
Juventus will be without their suspended German defender, Jurgen Kohler, while their international striker Gianluca Vialli, and Brazilian sweeper, Julio Cesar, are both injured. Sampdoria, beaten 2-1 last Sunday by Piacenza, may be deprived of Ruud Gullit, who twisted a knee in training on Wednesday.
The champions may well recall their Romanian striker, Florin Raducioiu, to galvanise an attack that has gone three Serie A games without scoring. Raducioiu, who hit nine goals in Romania's World Cup qualifying campaign, has not played for Milan since their 3-2 Intercontinental Cup final defeat to Sao Paulo in Tokyo last month, because of a torn thigh muscle.
Raducioiu is expected to partner the Frenchman Jean-Pierre Papin in attack, in place of the Montenegrin Dejan Savicevic, with Papin's compatriot Marcel Desailly in midfield as the third foreign player.
Lazio, 2-0 winners against Reggiana last Sunday, have a difficult game at Parma. Paul Gascoigne, who is expected to set a personal record by lining up for his sixth consecutive league game for the club, believes that Lazio can win and rekindle their title prospects. 'The title has not been lost yet,' he said. 'We've got to keep believing in our chances.'
His form during his unbroken run has earned Gascoigne fresh assurances about his future from the Lazio president, Sergio Cragnotti. 'Paul is the kind of player who can turn a match around,' Cragnotti said. 'There is no question of us letting him go at the end of the season.'
In recent weeks, however, Lazio have watched the Marseille defender Basile Boli, adding to speculation that the Englishman could be on his way out.
Lazio's foreign trio will consist of Gascoigne and the Dutchman Aron Winter in midfield, with the Croat Alen Boksic in attack. Parma have their Colombian, Faustino Asprilla, in attack, the Swede Tomas Brolin in midfield and the Argentine Nestor Sensini in defence.Reuse content