Football: We're ready for Juve challenge, says Garcia

MILAN (AFP) - Roma coach Rudi Garcia insists their away defeat to Juventus last season will have no bearing on Sunday's top-of-the-table clash between the sides in Turin.

Roma suffered a 3-0 defeat in the corresponding fixture last season, when Juventus went on to claim their third consecutive title under former coach Antonio Conte.

However, Garcia insisted on Saturday: "Last season's game has no bearing on this one. We're focused on what we have to do now, that's all that matters."

Now under Massimiliano Allegri, Juve sit top of Serie A after five games which has seen them score 10 goals and concede none.

However, Roma have been in scintillating form themselves, conceding only once for nine goals scored in Serie A and they too have a perfect 15 points.

They have also been performing well on the European stage following a three-year absence from the Champions League.

Roma turned heads with a sterling performance in a 1-1 Champions League draw with Manchester City in midweek.

It came two weeks after a 5-1 rout of CSKA Moscow while Juventus, 2-0 winners over Malmo, suffered a 1-0 defeat to Spanish champions Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.

Garcia said his side were more than up for the challenge of playing quality sides, and believes Roma and Juve's performances in Europe can only boost the ailing Italian game.

"It's great that tomorrow (Sunday) we're up against the Italian champions after playing the champions of Russia and England," he said. "And we have a match against the champions of Germany (Bayern Munich) coming up as well."

He added: "It's an important game for all of Italy because it will be watched the world over. Italian teams have done well in Europe recently, which perhaps shows that Serie A doesn't get the credit it deserves.

"Juventus v Roma can be a great advert for Italian football."

While Garcia has only one or two selection dilemmas, Allegri will still have to do without midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo as he is not yet fully recovered from a thigh injury.

"Andrea hasn't played for a month and a half and is lacking match time," said Allegri. "It will be crucial to have him back in top shape because he's the type of player who can lift our game."

Allegri hinted he could return Ghanaian international Kwadwo Asamoah to his preferred role wide on the left in place of Patrice Evra.

"Both are very reliable and it could be Kwadwo's turn tomorrow because Patrice has played three consecutive games," added Allegri, who tried to play down the significance of the fixture.

"Tomorrow's game is important, but it won't be decisive. Regardless of the result there are still 32 games to play and 96 points at stake," said Allegri.

"Nobody will be crowned champions if they win tomorrow, there are loads of games left to play," said Garcia.

The Frenchman, however, said the Giallorossi will not be taking their visit to Turin lightly.

"Juventus will try to use their physical presence to impose themselves and we have to be ready for that," said Garcia.

"You can't go out there wearing ballet shoes - you have to be prepared to put up a fight."