Roma rise leaves fans in dreamland

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MILAN - AS Roma fans are pinching themselves after their stunning rise to the top of Serie A and a home victory over fourth-placed Sampdoria on Sunday will bring their title dreams one step closer to reality.

Roma, whose coach Luciano Spalletti quit after two games of the campaign when huge debts prevented any major buys, are now title favourites with four games left having gone 24 unbeaten in the league.

Sampdoria, vying for Serie A's fourth and final Champions League spot, would appear to be their toughest remaining test and boast mercurial former Roma forward Antonio Cassano in their ranks.

Roma are chasing their first league and cup double after reaching the Italian Cup final on Wednesday but coach Claudio Ranieri knows Samp will be a major test.

He had little sympathy for title rivals Inter Milan, who could be distracted by the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona.

"I don't know if it will affect the championship, that's their problem. I only look at my team," he told reporters.

Roma, whose victory over derby rivals Lazio last Sunday sent the city berserk with fights and parties, will also confront Inter in the May 5 Cup final for the fifth time in six years.

Inter, who stunned Barca 3-1 in a thrilling home leg on Tuesday and visit the Nou Camp on Wednesday, host third-bottom Atalanta on Saturday.

Jose Mourinho's men had a nine-point lead in February but a series of draws and defeats have jeopardised their hopes of a fifth successive scudetto.

Right-back Maicon should be fit despite losing a tooth in the Barca game while forward Goran Pandev is a slight doubt.

Bottom side Livorno host Catania knowing they will be relegated if they fail to win.

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