- Associated Press - Thursday, December 11, 2014

MILAN (AP) - With Juventus headed for a fourth straight Serie A title, little appears to have changed since Massimiliano Allegri replaced Antonio Conte as coach.

One crucial difference, however, is that Juventus has advanced to the second round of the Champions League, something Conte failed to achieve last year.

“Allegri is intelligent, he has started well, he has studied and changed the system, bringing only benefits to the team,” Juventus director Pavel Nedved said.

Juventus hosts Sampdoria on Sunday, and second-place Roma plays Genoa a few hours later.

Here are some things to know about this weekend’s matches:

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SURPRISE SAMPDORIA

After finishing 12th last season, Sampdoria has had a strong start this time with only one loss in 14 matches.

But the team faces a tough test when it travels to Juventus Stadium on Sunday.

“Juventus is the strongest team in Europe and has been for a long while,” said former Italy and Juventus coach Marcello Lippi, who also played for Samp and coached in its youth sector. “It is the most difficult match for any team. But Sampdoria is having an extraordinary season and so can get any result in every match, including Sunday’s.”

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ROMA’S BELIEF

Only days after missing out on advancement in the Champions League, second-place Roma will visit third-place Genoa.

“Could this have a boomerang effect? Let’s not ask these questions. It’s not a tragedy or a step backward,” Roma director Mauro Baldissoni said. “We were in a very difficult (Champions League) group and we had the chance to qualify right to the last game.

“We know our aims and among those is that of winning the title. We believe in it, there is no need for any extra motivation.”

Roma, which missed an opportunity to close the gap on Juventus last week, is three points behind the Serie A leaders.

Like city rival Sampdoria, Genoa has also had an impressive start to the season and is currently third.

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FIORENTINA FORWARDS

Fiorentina striker Khouma Babacar is likely to be out until the new year with a thigh injury, dealing another blow to the team.

Babacar, who has scored four league goals this season, is the third forward out of action, with Giuseppe Rossi and Federico Bernardeschi sidelined with long-term injuries.

Fiorentina will have to lean heavily on Mario Gomez, who recently scored his first goal in eight months after an injury-hit spell.

“It’s properly a curse,” Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Montella said. “I’m upset for Babacar.”

Fiorentina visits Cesena, which hired coach Domenico Di Carlo on Monday to replace the fired Pierpaolo Bisoli.


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