Football: Batistuta in hot pursuit

European Football
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The Independent Online
ROMA and Fiorentina, both chasing Uefa Cup places next season, meet in the undoubted match of the day in Italy at the Olympic Stadium, in Rome, today. The clubs both have 38 points (Fiorentina have a better goal difference) but they trail the leaders Juventus by 10 points.

Fiorentina seem in better form, coming into the game on a six-match unbeaten run highlighted by their 3-0 win against Juventus last Sunday. Roma, beaten by both Juventus and Udinese this year, have won their last three games, against Lecce, Bologna and Napoli.

Despite setbacks during the first two months of this year, including a painful Italian Cup elimination by their city rivals Lazio, Roma this week expressed their confidence about the future by reappointing the Czech coach Zdenek Zeman. He immediately faces problems since the first-choice strikers Francesco Totti and the Argentine Abel Balbo are both doubtful through injury.

The reserve striker Marco Delvecchio - who with Carmine Gautieri is due to replace Balbo and Totti - is looking forward to a rare chance to start a game. "If you're not a first-choice player, then you've always got something to prove. In all of this season, I've played only six games yet I have scored three goals. But despite that people still criticise me.

"As for my position, on the wing or at centre-forward, I don't mind. If they gave me the gloves, I'd play in goal if necessary."

Delvecchio and Gautieri will be partnered by the Brazilian Paulo Sergio in attack with the Brazilians Cafu, Zago and Aldair all lining out in the Roma defence. Fiorentina will be at full strength with the Argentine captain Gabriel Batistuta leading the attack alongside the Belgian-naturalised Brazilian Oliveira and Domenico Morfeo.

Andrei Kanchelskis may keep the Swede Stefan Schwarz out of midfield, lining up alongside the Portuguese playmaker Rui Costa and the Italian international Sandro Cois. When the two sides met last October in Florence, the game ended in a 0-0 draw.

Elsewhere today Bologna will will be without the defenders Massimo Tarantino, Stefano Torrisi and Cristiano Pavone as well as the coach Renzo Uliveri, all suspended, but are still likely to push their local rivals Parma all the way, especially now that Roberto Baggio is close to his best form.

Udinese will have to put the midweek news that their owners, the Pozzo family, are under investigation for tax fraud behind them when they face lowly Empoli, and Milan will miss Zvonomir Boban against Lecce.