Title-chasing Roma are going to find out what life is like without talisman Francesco Totti on Sunday as their 100 percent record comes under the spotlight on a tricky trip to Udinese.
The former Italy international is out for up to a month after limping off with a thigh injury during Roma’s 2-0 defeat of title rivals Napoli last Friday.
Roma are further hurt by an injury suffered by in-form Gervinho in the same game, meaning that they will have to rely on new signing Adem Ljajic and out-of-favour Marco Borriello to lead up front.
The 37-year-old Totti has been in sparkling form this season, scoring three goals and leading Roma to an unprecedented eight wins in their eight opening matches which put them five points clear at the top of Serie A.
Defender Mehdi Benatia believes they will cope without their evergreen captain in Sunday’s game.
“We score goals because of everyone’s hard work, from the captain up front right back to (Morgan) De Sanctis behind me,” Benatia told the Corriere Dello Sport.
The defeat of Napoli has led to increasing talk of Roma’s fourth scudetto, something the club have tried to play down.
The Serie A leaders have a series of easy-looking home games coming up, with Chievo on Thursday the first, but some tough away fixtures including Torino next weekend.
Udinese are in 11th place on 10 points, all of which have come in their four home matches, although they have yet to play anyone in the top half of the table.
Benatia will be facing his old team mate Antonio Di Natale, another veteran attacker who still packs a punch.
“He’s a great player,” Benatia said. “Having him in front of me will be difficult but I won’t be giving him any gifts like I used to in training.”
Hellas Verona, the surprise package in fourth place, travel to the San Siro to face fifth-placed Inter Milan on Saturday.
Former Inter player Andrea Mandorlini, who won the league title under Giovanni Trappatoni in 1989, has guided newly-promoted Verona to 16 points in a start which has included games against champions Juventus, AC Milan and Roma.
Mandorlini admitted his admiration for Inter still ran deep, telling the Gazzetta Dello Sport on Thursday: “I’ve never hidden my passion; I supported Inter as a boy and I played there, winning the title under my mentor Trappatoni.
“This will never be a normal match for me. Coming to the San Siro is always a special occasion.”