- Associated Press - Thursday, November 6, 2014

ROME (AP) - Juventus and Roma are the two clear title favorites after 10 rounds of Serie A.

Figuring out which club will finish third and claim the last Champions League spot is a little more difficult.

After AC Milan’s visit to Sampdoria on Saturday, the situation could become a bit clearer.

Sampdoria is tied for third with Lazio and has lost just once this season, while Milan is two points further behind after going winless in its last three matches.

At the top of the table, Juventus holds a three-point lead over Roma.

Juventus, coming off a difficult 3-2 win over Olympiakos in the Champions League, hosts struggling Parma on Sunday while Roma, which lost 2-0 at Bayern Munich midweek, hosts Torino.

In other key matches this weekend, it’s Empoli vs. Lazio; Fiorentina vs. Napoli; and Inter Milan vs. Hellas Verona.

Here are some things to know about the Italian league:



Michel Platini was the first. Then came Zinedine Zidane and Didier Deschamps, followed by David Trezeguet.

Now Paul Pogba is the latest France international to make a big impact at Juventus.

Let go by Manchester United two years ago, the 21-year-old is rapidly developing into a force in midfield.

Pogba scored the first Champions League goal of his career against Olympiakos and also drew the foul that led to Juve’s opening goal, a free kick from Andrea Pirlo.

That came a week after Pogba extended his contract with Juventus through 2018-19, ending speculation that he would transfer to Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain or back to the English Premier League.

“I’m happy to stay here,” Pogba said Wednesday. “I want to continue wearing this shirt for a long time and perhaps one day go down in Juve’s history like Platini and Zidane.”

Pogba was also the only Serie A player included in the 23-man list of nominees for the FIFA Ballon d’Or last week.

“Pogba is improving. He just needs to become more consistent. That’s his only defect,” Juventus CEO Giuseppe Marotta said. “But he has natural talent and he’s one of the brightest young players out there. He has a glorious career ahead of him.”



Having been humiliated by Bayern Munich in a 7-1 loss at home two weeks ago, Roma resigned itself to mostly defending and limiting the damage in the 2-0 loss to the German power this week.

“The important thing was to defend well and we did,” Roma coach Rudi Garcia said. “I’m proud of my boys. It wasn’t a surrender.”

Still, Italian media took aim at his decision to rest several key players for the game.

“Rudi paralyzed: He was afraid of another lesson,” read a headline in the Gazzetta dello Sport.

On the eve of the first Bayern match, Garcia declared that he was convinced that Roma would win Serie A. And midfield veteran Daniele De Rossi said this was the strongest Roma side he’s been a part of.

The two losses to Bayern, plus a couple of recent stumbles in Serie A, have altered Roma’s approach.

“We knew we couldn’t win,” midfielder Radja Nainggolan said after the latest Bayern match.

Added De Rossi: “This was an impossible challenge for us. Sunday night at Olimpico against Torino will be much more important.”



A proposal from Roma’s American president James Pallotta to hold a football match inside the Colosseum has been met with opposition from a government official.

“I have one big goal,” Pallotta told CNN recently. “I want to get the city to let us play somebody like Barcelona or Bayern Munich or someone like that at the Colosseum.

“We’ll do a pay-per-view on it, $25 around the world,” Pallotta added. “We could get 300 million people wanting to watch that around the world - a game in the Colosseum which they’ll never see again.

“We take that money, which could be billions of dollars, and then set up a foundation in Rome to fix up the antiquities even faster and put the rest towards inner city programs in Rome.”

Italy’s culture minister Dario Franceschini did not take well to the idea

“If Roma’s president wants to contribute to a fundraiser for restoring the capital’s monuments there are many possibilities to do so,” Franceschini said. “But let’s not joke around about the Colosseum.”



Stefan De Vrij has quickly become the defensive anchor of a Lazio side that has won five of its last six matches.

Named one of the top defenders in the Netherlands’ run to the World Cup semifinals, De Vrij joined Lazio from Feyenoord in July.

He has played in nine of 10 matches, missing only one game due to suspension.

Former Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal reportedly considered taking De Vrij with him to Manchester United but then suggested the defender head to Italy.

“Lazio was the only club before the World Cup which was really interested in me and I really liked that,” De Vrij said when he joined the Roman club.


Andrew Dampf can be followed at www.twitter.com/asdampf

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