MILAN - Tensions are rising at AS Roma and city rivals Lazio after difficult starts to the season, which are about to become even tougher with weekend matches against Inter Milan and AC Milan.
Roma, who changed coach just two games in when Claudio Ranieri replaced Luciano Spalletti, have lurched from one mini-crisis to another with rumours again growing that the owner will be forced into selling the club.
President Rosella Sensi has said she will not quit despite supporter unrest and pressure from banks, but with little money available for January reinforcements the chances of a sale have increased after two failed takeover bids in two years.
On the field, the injury problems of captain Francesco Totti have hampered their progress and Sunday's game at leaders Inter will remind Roma fans just how far they have fallen.
Two seasons ago they almost snatched the title from Inter on the final day but last term they were sixth and are now 14th.
"Roma will improve, we will cancel out the boos of the supporters," midfielder Daniele De Rossi told reporters.
The form of Inter makes the trip from the capital to Italy's second city even trickier than usual.
Jose Mourinho's side are seven points clear already and will be even more pumped up after Wednesday's 2-1 comeback win over Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League.
Back in Rome, 15th-placed Lazio host resurgent Milan on Sunday with boss Davide Ballardini clinging to his job.
"We are not in a crisis. We are only paying the price for playing three times a week," Ballardini said.
While Lazio - like Roma - have been trundling along in the Europa League, Serie A has been a lot worse.
Last Sunday's 1-1 draw at bottom side Siena did not help the former Palermo coach's cause, and neither has the decision to freeze out striker Goran Pandev and midfielder Cristian Ledesma.
Despite their talents, they have not featured since asking for close-season transfers and legal moves are now underway with Pandev hoping to escape in January. Inter is a possibility with Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o heading to the African Cup of Nations.
On Saturday, joint-second Juventus have only David Trezeguet available upfront at lowly Atalanta with Amauri suspended and Vincenzo Iaquinta and Alessandro Del Piero still injured.comments