Inter host Milan derby, Lazio seek Juve upset

Milan (AFP) - Inter Milan captain Andrea Ranocchia has called on the Serie A giants to appease long-suffering fans by dominating the derby against AC Milan on Sunday, when Lazio travel to leaders Juventus looking to cause an upset.

With both Milan sides enduring yet another tough season in Italy's top flight, the second derby of the season will be crucial for their respective Europa League hopes.

Seven-time European champions Milan sit ninth, 28 points behind leaders Juventus and seven behind Fiorentina in the first Europa League qualifying spot. Inter are 10th, a point further behind, with eight games remaining this season.

Although Inter coach Roberto Mancini last week admitted that "perhaps we feel the pressure more at the San Siro", Ranocchia echoed the Italian handler's call for the Nerazzurri to adopt a winning attitude for Sunday's game.

"You don't play derbies, you win them," Ranocchi said. "We need to give our fans something to smile about after a pretty tough season. The derby is always a good chance to make people happy."

Mancini, who returned for his second spell at Inter in time for the first Milan derby of the season -- which finished 1-1 -- in November, is under just as much pressure as Milan counterpart Filippo Inzaghi.

But while the former Manchester City manager has the full backing of the club, former Rossoneri striker Inzaghi is walking a tightrope.

Milan defender Ignazio Abate admitted the 'Derby della Madonnina' has lost some of its lustre, but claims their motivation to win remains intact.

- Reason to believe -

"Obviously, it won't be like the derbies we used to have, but the passion remains the same," said Abate.

"We want to go out and give something back to the club, and to the fans."

With Juventus 12 points clear of Lazio, the Turin giants are virtually assured of their fourth consecutive title.

But Massimiliano Allegri's leaders host the capital side only four days after labouring to a 1-0 win over Monaco in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

Lazio fans have plenty of reason to believe Stefano Pioli's men can cause an upset and close the gap to nine points with eight games remaining.

Although Juventus remain unbeaten at home this campaign, the champions were humbled 1-0 away at basement side Parma last week. At the same time, Lazio put four unanswered goals past Empoli to register their eighth win on the trot.

Lazio have the momentum and could have the physical edge given Juve's exertions in midweek, and Brazilian forward Felipe Anderson says Pioli wants more.

"Pioli is not getting carried away. We've won eight Serie A games in a row and he keeps telling us we've achieved nothing yet," Anderson told Lazio Style Radio.

With 10 goals in 24 games, the 22-year-old Brazilian has been a revelation this season and Manchester United, Liverpool and Barcelona are reportedly showing interest.

Anderson said Lazio -- who also face Juventus in the Italian Cup final on June 7 -- have to focus on playing the game that has seen them score the most goals of any team (58) so far this season.

"We have to go to Turin and be confident in playing our own game. It won't be easy to beat (goalkeeper) Gigi Buffon, but we'll give it everything and try to win."

With Roma now a point adrift of Lazio in third place, a duel for the second automatic Champions League qualifying spot looks imminent, and Lazio midfielder Antonio Candreva has added to the existing rivalry.

Candreva, who claimed his seventh league goal last week with a long-range strike at the Stadio Olimpico, said he was proud to wear the Lazio shirt "because it's the symbol of this city".

His declaration has already caused a backlash among Roma fans on social media ahead of Saturday's home game against Atalanta.

Roma captain Francesco Totti could return following a three-game absence due to injury although Bosnian midfielder Miralem Pjanic is expected to be sidelined with a sore right ankle.

Fixtures (times GMT)

Saturday

Sampdoria v Cesena (1600), Juventus v Lazio (1845)

Sunday

Sassuolo v Torino (1030), Chievo v Udinese, Empoli v Parma, Palermo v Genoa, Roma v Atalanta (all 1300), Cagliari v Napoli (1600), Inter Milan v AC Milan (1845)

Monday

Fiorentina v Verona (1845)