Milan: Juventus host Palermo Sunday looking to build on their slim advantage over Roma as both Serie A giants limp back to domestic duty following respective beatings in Europe earlier this week. The lustre was taken off Roma's solid Serie A season so far by a humbling 7-1 defeat by Bayern Munich while Juve continued to misfire in the Champions League in a 1-0 defeat to Olympiakos that dented their Group A hopes.
Champions Juve and title challengers Roma may rule the roost in Italy, but Italian clubs in Europe are struggling to keep pace. "I think the Italians suffer against the faster style of play of the big clubs in Europe," said Bayern Munich official Karl-Heinz Rummenigge following Roma's crushing defeat at the Stadio Olimpico on Tuesday.
Former Milan coach Arrigo Sacchi, meanwhile, suggested to Mediaset that Juventus failed to score in Athens because "our football is based on the individual, and is played slower. "Olympiakos tried to score. In Italy some teams don't ever try (to score)." Juventus had a "technically poor" first half, according to coach Massimiliano Allegri, and after Pajtim Kasami's 36th minute opener, Bianconeri striker Alvaro Morata spurned several clear chances in a much improved second half.
"Historically, Juventus do well domestically but struggle in Europe," admitted Juve striker Carlos Tevez. "But if we want to be a big club, we have to change this. It's down to us." Juventus head into Sunday's home game against lowly Palermo looking to get back to winning ways after last week's 1-1 draw away to struggling Sassuolo reduced their lead on Roma to a point. Roma face a daunting trip to Genoa to face high-flying Sampdoria, who along with Juve are the league's only unbeaten side.
Giallorossi coach Rudi Garcia, who admitted he had got his strategy against Bayern "completely wrong", said the only way to get over the club's humiliation is to focus again on continuing their push for the league title. "It will serve as a lesson to us. Now, we have to think about going to Genoa and beating Sampdoria," said the Frenchman. "Our main objective of winning the scudetto hasn't changed."
Brazilian wing-back Maicon, who pulled out injured with a swollen right knee prior to the visit of Bayern, is expected to remain on the sidelines while Davide Astori should come in for suspended defender Kostas Manolas. Former Chelsea left-back Ashley Cole, meanwhile, is expected to pay for a poor performance against Bayern by giving his place up to Jose Holebas.
A win would send Roma top of the league but Juve will restore their one-point advantage if, as expected, they account for Palermo on Sunday. Palermo moved off the bottom of the table last week thanks to a first win of the campaign that came courtesy of an injury-time header by Costa Rican Giancarlo Gonzalez in a 2-1 win against Cesena. Gonzalez admits Juve are an "huge side with lots of big-name stars", but the Costa Rican told Corriere dello Sport: "They don't intimidate us. We're going there to play... it's 11 against 11."
Napoli, meanwhile, host Verona looking to get back to winning ways after a 2-2 draw away to Inter last week in which the hosts pulled level twice in the final 10 minutes. Rafael Benitez's men currently sit in seventh place, eight points behind Juventus and four behind third-placed Sampdoria while Verona are only one place behind following last week's 3-1 home defeat by Milan.
Milan, only five points off the pace, will move up one place to third if they account for Fiorentina in Sunday's late game and Sampdoria lose to Roma. Fixtures (all times 1300 GMT unless stated): Saturday Empoli v Cagliari (1300), Parma v Sassuolo (1600), Sampdoria v Roma (1845) Sunday Chievo v Genoa, Juventus v Palermo, Udinese v Atalanta (all 1300), Cesena v Inter, Lazio v Torino, Napoli v Verona (all 1600), Milan v Fiorentina (1845)