Italian football: Roma face Juve trip

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JUVENTUS, WHO play Manchester United in the semi-finals of the European Cup, entertain Roma in tomorrow's live Serie A game on Channel 4 at the Delle Alpi stadium in Turin.

Juve won the European Cup in 1996 - beating Ajax - and were probably the best side in Europe for the following two seasons, winning the scudetto on both occasions but somehow contriving to lose successive European Cup finals to inferior rivals in Borussia Dortmund and then Real Madrid.

However, for much of this season, it appeared that things had gone pear- shaped in Turin. Alessandro Del Piero, Juve's hugely-influential striker, sustained an injury which kept him out of action for the season, Juve struggled to qualify for the knock-out stages of the European Cup and their league form was so moderate that Marcelo Lippi, their coach who joins Internazionale next season, felt forced to do the honourable thing and quit early.

Since he left, however, under Carlo Ancelotti, their new coach, Juventus have been unbeaten in seven league games and have ridden their luck in Europe. A late equaliser at Olympiakos on Wednesday earned them their date with Manchester United and a 2-1 victory over a useful Udinese side last Saturday took them up to fifth in Serie A.

Roma, conversely, are on the slide. Serie A's second top scorers with 47 goals in 25 games have slipped to seventh place in recent weeks, and they were knocked out of the Uefa Cup on Tuesday by Atletico Madrid.

Both Juve and Roma have injury problems. Zinedine Zidane, Edgar Davids and Juan Esnaider are doubtful for Juve. And, with Angelo Peruzzi injured and Michelangelo Rampulla suspended, third-choice goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis starts only his second match for Juve. Roma will be without the suspended Brazilian central defender Antonio Zago. Fabio Petruzzi takes his place.

Meanwhile Lazio, who lead Serie A by five points with nine games left, entertain Venezia, who did them a favour when beating Fiorentina 4-1 last week.

ITALIAN LEAGUE: Tomorrow afternoon (league positions in brackets): Bologna (9) v Vicenza (15); Cagliari (12) v Empoli (18); Fiorentina (3) v Piacenza (14); Juventus (5) v Roma (7); Lazio (1) v Venezia (10); Milan (4) v Bari (11); Perugia (13) v Salernitana (16); Sampdoria (17) v Internazionale (8). Tomorrow evening: Udinese (6) v Parma (2).