Rome: Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has added his weight to early season predictions that the battle for Serie A supremacy will be a two-horse race betweeen the Turin giants and AS Roma.
Ahead of this weekend`s visit to Atalanta, champions Juve remain unbeaten and Buffon has yet to concede a goal but the 36-year-old has taken note of Roma`s early season form.
Roma are also unbeaten after four games and a 5-1 Champions League rout of CSKA Moscow two weeks ago has only served to underline their credentials on the domestic front.
"Roma will be fighting for the title to the very end. They`ve now acquired a certain level of strength and confidence that comes with victories and strong performances," Buffon told reporters.
"They are a stronger team now ... it`s made the league a lot more compelling."
Having missed Andrea Pirlo for the start of the campaign due to a thigh injury, the Juventus midfield great is being tipped to return to Massimiliano Allegri`s squad in Bergamo.
In his absence, Juve have acquitted themselves admirably -- as seen by last week`s 1-0 win away to AC Milan and their 3-0 win over Cesena on Wednesday, when Manchester United target Arturo Vidal hit a brace for the hosts.
Roma, who beat Parma 2-1 away in midweek thanks to a sublime Miralem Pjanic freekick in the 88th minute, travel to Juventus next week for a top-of-the-table clash.
Roma`s French coach Rudi Garcia says focus is firmly on hosting Verona on Saturday, before a much-anticipated Champions League trip to Manchester City days later.
"I think it`s a bit too soon to be talking about the Juve match. We play Verona at home and then Manchester City away in the Champions League before we head to Turin," Garcia said after Wednesday`s win.
"I`m pleased we picked up three important points... but we now we need to focus on Verona."
Saturday`s game will also shine the spotlight on two giants of the Italian game in veterans Francesco Totti and Luca Toni -- who have a combined age of 74.
Totti, the `King of Rome` who has scored 235 goals in 21 seasons, turns 38 on Saturday when the entire Olympic Stadium is likely to applaud the Roma number 10 for his sheer longevity and ongoing contribution to the game.
Toni, who is now at his 16th senior club, hailed his fellow 37-year-old but hopes Verona will spoil the party.
"We both have a lot of passion for the game and like me, Totti never gives up," Toni told Radio Roma.
"You can`t put a price on the adrenaline you get from playing at the weekend and scoring goals. These are the things we`ll miss when we retire."
Toni, however, added: "On Saturday we have to go out and beat Roma. Last season we beat Juve, but we didn`t manage to beat Roma."
Inter`s 2-0 win over Atalanta moved them up to fourth, four points behind Juve and Roma and a point adrift of third-placed Udinese, who host Parma on Monday.
With 10 goals scored so far, the Nerazzurri are on sizzling attacking form but coach Walter Mazzarri called on his side to be more clinical.
"If we want to challenge for the top places we have to be more clinical," Mazzarri said after Wednesday`s win.
Napoli, meanwhile, are still reeling from Wednesday`s 3-3 draw at home to promoted Palermo, which left them in 10th and heaped further pressure on coach Rafael Benitez.
Benitez`s contract expires in June, but speculation mounted on Thursday that club owner Aurelio De Laurentiis is already studying alternatives with a view to a change during the October international break.
Roma v Verona (1600 GMT), Atalanta v Juventus (1845)
Sassuolo v Napoli (1030), Cesena v Milan, Chievo v Empoli, Inter v Cagliari, Torino v Fiorentina (all 1300), Genoa v Sampdoria (1845)
Udinese v Parma (1700), Palermo v Lazio (1900)