Juventus aims to extend celebrations with Serie A title
ROME (AP) — Juventus is still celebrating reaching the Champions League semifinals and the Bianconeri could be in for some more festivities this weekend in Serie A.
If Roma (at Inter Milan) and Lazio (home against Chievo Verona) each lose and Juventus beats Torino in the Turin derby, Juventus will clinch its fourth straight Italian league title with six matches to spare.
Such a scenario seemed improbable in July when Massimiliano Allegri was an unpopular choice to replace departed coach Antonio Conte.
“I remember July 15 when we entered Vinovo (Juventus’ training center) and the car that I was in with president (Andrea) Agnelli and Allegri was assaulted by kicking fans,” Juve sporting director Giuseppe Marotta said shortly after eliminating Monaco on Wednesday.
Conte, the architect of Juve’s last three domestic titles, had resigned surprisingly a day earlier to take over Italy’s national team, while Allegri had been fired by AC Milan six months earlier.
“Our strongpoint was making a choice that wasn’t very popular,” Marotta added. “But I think we laid the groundwork for controlling the season in the best manner possible.”
Juventus has also reached the Italian Cup final, where it is scheduled to face Lazio on June 7.
However, with the Champions League final scheduled for June 6, the Cup championship could be moved if Juventus advances in Europe.
Italian league officials apparently did not expect one of their clubs to go so far in the Champions League.
Here are a few other things to know entering this weekend’s matches:
BENITEZ’S BUSINESS PLAN:
Rafa Benitez has issued an ultimatum to Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis: Either start opening up your wallet or find yourself a new coach.
“I haven’t seen the club’s business plan yet,” Benitez said. “Before I decide I’ve got to speak with the club.”
Since De Laurentiis rescued Napoli from bankruptcy a decade ago, he has developed the club into a perennial Serie A challenger while being careful not to pile up any debts.
“De Laurentiis has done very well over the last few years and the next step is to see if he wants to continue to control the club well, without any debts, or try and approach Europe’s top clubs,” Benitez said. “I want to understand the business plan and then I’ll evaluate with my family whether to stay or not.”
Meanwhile, reports indicate that De Laurentiis has already lined up Sampdoria coach Sinisa Mihajlovic as a replacement for Benitez.
Riding a three-match unbeaten run, Napoli is making a late bid for the Champions League places.
The southern club hosts Sampdoria and Mihajlovic on Sunday.
A judge has drawn out an auction schedule for crisis-hit Parma.
The base price will start at 20 million euros ($21.5 million) with binding offers due by May 6.
Then, if needed, new auctions will be held May 12, 18, 22 and 28 with the price of the club reduced 25 percent each time.
Last month, Parma was declared bankrupt with debts of more than 200 million euros ($220 million).
Parma is in last place and has been docked seven points this season for failing to pay players their wages.
On Sunday, Parma hosts Palermo.
Coach Zdenek Zeman has left Cagliari, which is in danger of relegation.
“I feel useless,” Zeman said Tuesday in bidding the squad goodbye. “The players don’t listen to me anymore.”
Youth squad coach Gianluca Festa was appointed as a replacement for the 67-year-old Zeman entering Sunday’s match at Fiorentina, with former standout striker David Suazo as his assistant.
Andrew Dampf can be followed at www.twitter.com/asdampf