Favours needed again as Juventus look to clinch title
MILAN - Agence France-Presse
Reuters PhotoAfter their weekend derby disappointment, Juventus will need favours from elsewhere if they are to secure a fourth consecutive Serie A title in front of their own fans on April 29.
Fourteen points clear at the top of the table with six matches remaining, Massimiliano Allegri's side entertain Fiorentina at the Juventus Stadium knowing a win will see them confirmed as champions provided nearest rivals Lazio slip up at home to Parma.
A draw could also be enough for the Bianconeri to clinch their 31st scudetto this midweek, but only if Lazio, Roma and Napoli all fail to win, with the latter not in action away to Empoli until Thursday.
In the last week, Juve have gone from the high of winning through to the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time in 12 years to the low of losing 2-1 to city rivals Torino, their first defeat in the so-called 'Derby della Mole' since 1995.
That match was also marred by crowd trouble, with the Juve team bus being attacked on its way to the ground and several Torino fans then being hurt when a paper bomb was thrown inside the stadium.
Juve risk having part of their stadium closed as a punishment, which would take some of the gloss off an end to the season which promises so much.
"Sorry to have lost the derby. We didn't get much luck. We continue to pedal towards winning the scudetto," defender Leonardo Bonucci wrote on Twitter ahead of a game that he will miss due to suspension.
Paul Pogba is still sidelined, but Claudio Marchisio is back after a ban and the likes of Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and leading scorer Carlos Tevez are in line to return to the team.
Fiorentina are dangerous opponents on paper, although a 3-1 home loss to struggling Cagliari on Sunday was their third in a row in Serie A, with coach Vincenzo Montella admitting their run to the Europa League semi-finals has sapped energy.
Rather than postponing Juve's title celebrations, Lazio's priority is on holding on to the second automatic Champions League qualifying spot as they entertain a Parma side who have delayed their inevitable relegation on a run of just one defeat in six.
"We will have to grit our teeth because a very difficult week awaits. I am convinced that our season will be decided on the final day," said Lazio coach Stefano Pioli after his team's 1-1 draw with Chievo on April 26.
Lazio are a point better off than capital rivals Roma, who go to Sassuolo looking to improve on a run of just three wins in their last 15 Serie A games, the latest outing a 2-1 defeat away to Inter on April 25.
"We need to have a burning desire to start winning again. Things are not going well, we need to change things in the six matches that are left," declared midfielder Miralem Pjanic.
Roma's position on the podium is under threat from a resurgent Napoli, who are into the Europa League semi-finals and have won their last three Serie A matches, scoring 10 goals in the process. Their latest victory was a 4-2 crushing of fellow European hopefuls Sampdoria and their run has revived their Champions League hopes before Rafa Benitez's men go to Empoli on April 23.
Meanwhile, under-pressure AC Milan coach Filippo Inzaghi is keeping his under-performing players in retreat at their Milanello training ground ahead of Wednesday's home clash with Genoa.
Inzaghi blasted his team after the weekend defeat at Udinese, which left them in 10th place and appeared to kill off their chances of European qualification.