ROME (Reuters) - The best teams in Serie A face off on Monday when AS Roma host Juventus, with the home side hoping they can reverse a 3-2 defeat suffered against the champions in October to close the gap at the top of the standings.
Prior to their first meeting, Roma coach Rudi Garcia boasted that his team would win the league, words he must now be regretting as his side have slipped nine points off the pace in recent weeks.
Roma's dip in form has seen them draw six of their last seven league games to leave themselves in serious danger of being caught by Napoli who are only three points adrift.
The poor run began when Ivorian forward Gervinho left for the Africa Cup of Nations at the beginning of the year and Manuel Iturbe suffered another injury setback a few weeks later.
Garcia's main attacking strategy relied on the pace of the two wingers to break through opposing defences but, without them, Roma have become one-dimensional and directionless in possession.
Gervinho returned to the side two games ago but his contribution has been limited, with the player looking jaded from his exertions in helping Ivory Coast claim a second continental title.
However, according to Garcia, Roma's biggest loss has been faith in themselves, an opinion shared by talismanic forward Francesco Totti.
With a nine-point cushion, Juventus can sit back and punish their opponents with the same counter-attacking style adopted on Tuesday to defeat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the Champions League.
Juventus remain on course for a fourth successive title but will line up against Roma without key playmaker Andrea Pirlo, who injured his right calf against the German side.