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By ESPN Staff

Palermo head to Empoli on a high

MILAN, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Top of the table Palermo go into Serie A's fourth round of games on Sunday with a maximum of nine points, as Sicilian football enjoys a rare moment in the spotlight.

For three decades the island's teams have languished in the lower divisions but on Wednesday Palermo went clear at the top of Serie A with a 5-3 derby victory over Catania and head to Empoli on a high.

Catania, who have also impressed, face second-placed Messina in another all-Sicily encounter on Saturday but it is Palermo's start to the season that has caught Italy's attention.

Five different players were on target against Catania, but while Palermo have scored more goals (11) than any other side they also have the worst defensive record - conceding seven in a record matched only by Reggina.

'We are showing that we are a team that has plenty of sources for goals and which produces good football,' said coach Francesco Guidolin after the derby victory.

'But we need to keep our concentration levels higher while keeping our prolific record in front of goal,' he added.

While Palermo enjoy their first spell alone at the top of the table, champions Inter are hoping they can catch up quickly and prove why they were clear pre-season favourites.

Roberto Mancini's side made a stuttering start to the season but on Wednesday they finally looked the part in an impressive 1-0 win at Roma.

Inter will be without Patrick Vieira for Sunday's home game with Chievo after the French midfielder was sent off in Rome.

Mancini left out Brazilian striker Adriano, who has looked well short of his best, and opted for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Hernan Crespo in attack against Roma with the latter grabbing the winner.

Inter and Mancini have already come in for criticism but Wednesday's win will ease some of the pressure.

Juventus's relegation to Serie B and the eight-point penalty inflicted on AC Milan in the match-fixing scandal led to Inter becoming favourites to win the 'scudetto' and their patchy early season form led to some criticism in the media.

'We knew that at the first false step they would be on to us, but we didn't let that bother us,' said Mancini's assistant Sinisa Mihajlovic.

Milan have already wiped out their penalty points with three consecutive wins and they will expect to extend their 100 percent start away to Livorno.

'Obviously we couldn't have done more than we have,' said coach Carlo Ancelotti, 'But the road is still long and we have a lot of ground to make up.'