Lazio flying high like their eagle mascot

MILAN - Lazio, whose introduction of a flying eagle before kick-off has coincided with them soaring to the top of Serie A, have the perfect chance to maintain their advantage with a home game against Cagliari on Sunday.

While the Romans do battle with the stuttering Sardinians, second-placed AC Milan face a difficult trip to Napoli in fourth in a new Monday night game for the Italian top flight.

Lazio, last champions in 2000 and relegation candidates last season, will hope that their rivals cancel each other out at the San Paolo and that third-placed Inter Milan come a cropper at home to unpredictable Sampdoria on Sunday.

However, 16 points from seven games and a two-point lead at the top is already beyond Lazio's wildest dreams and their collection of journeymen and shrewd signings are keeping their feet firmly on the ground - unlike the club eagle.

"Too few games have been played to say where we can go and we know full well that teams like Inter, Milan and Juventus are at a higher level and are used to fighting for certain objectives," defender Giuseppe Biava told reporters.

"We are trying to get as many points as possible and if in the spring we are still up there, we will try to play our part. But right now after every game, maybe for good luck, we count the points we need to avoid relegation."

Biava is a good example of how wily coach Edy Reja has turned a defender who failed to make much of an impact at Palermo and Genoa into a rock.

The eagle, the club symbol who flies around the Stadio Olimpico like Benfica's famous bird, is not the only new addition this season with Brazilian Hernanes expertly pulling the strings in midfield after arriving from Sao Paulo.

Fiorentina, a club with similar status to Lazio, are having a very different season to their peers.

Sinisa Mihajlovic's injury-ravaged side are surprisingly bottom on five points and the spotlight will be on Florence when they host Bari in Saturday's only Serie A match.

Striker Adrian Mutu is set to return from a drugs ban at the end of the month and the day cannot come soon enough for Mihajlovic.

Fifth-placed Juventus, improving markedly, visit strugglers Bologna on Sunday.