By Terry Daley
ROME, Dec 17 (Reuters) - The return of captain Francesco Totti after a long injury layoff has put a spring back in the step of AS Roma coach Rudi Garcia.
The experienced playmaker, who has been out for eight weeks with a thigh injury, returned for Monday's 2-2 Serie A draw at AC Milan.
Totti came on as a 64th-minute substitute for Mattia Destro who was himself featuring for only the second time this season following a series of niggling injuries.
"We knew that neither Totti nor Destro had 90 minutes in their legs so I chose to divide the match between them," said Garcia.
"It's good news that the captain is back because with him we are even stronger."
Second-placed Roma are unbeaten in 16 matches this season and trail leaders Juventus by five points.
Garcia's men, chasing their first Serie A title since 2001, host bottom of the table Catania on Sunday before the top two clash immediately after the Christmas break.
Roma are trying to play down title talk although expectations have been raised in a city hungry for success.
"I'm not looking either behind me or ahead of me," said Garcia. "What we need to do now is play well at home in the next match and prepare for Juventus."
Roma twice went in front against Milan, through Destro and a Kevin Strootman penalty, but Milan responded each time with goals from Cristian Zapata and Sulley Muntari.
"Absolutely nothing has changed for us, our aim remains the same," said midfielder Strootman.
"Only outside the club do people talk about the title. We're only thinking about finishing as high in the league as possible and getting into the Champions League.
"We've got a match at home against Catania where we can get three points and finish the year in the best way possible. After that we can concentrate on the Juventus game," added Strootman.
"We want to show against them that we are a good team with players of the highest level." (Editing by Tony Jimenez)
- Sports & Recreation
- Francesco Totti
- Mattia Destro