A rarity: Top spot not on offer in Juventus-AC Milan matchup
Nov. 19, 2015
ROME (AP) — When AC Milan visits Juventus on Saturday, it will mark the first time in recent memory that their matchup finds them both struggling below the top five positions in the Italian league.
Milan is sixth, seven points behind leader Fiorentina, and Juventus is seventh, two points further back.
While Milan has been rebuilding in the past two seasons with eighth- and 10th-place finishes, Juventus has won the past four titles, but lost key players Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Carlos Tevez in the transfer market.
The only times in the history of Serie A when neither Milan nor Juventus were contenders came in 1939, when Juventus finished eighth and Milan ninth, and 1985, when Milan was fifth and Juventus sixth — although Juventus won the European Cup that year amid the Heysel tragedy.
"We realize we're going through a rough stretch," Juventus CEO Giuseppe Marotta said. "Third place is the minimal goal, and we absolutely must reach it. Everything else we'll take as it comes along."
Third place in Italy comes with a spot in the final round of the Champions League playoffs, and Juventus wants to make sure it remains in Europe's top club competition after reaching last season's final.
At the top of the table, Fiorentina leads Inter Milan on goal differential with Roma one point back and Napoli two points behind in fourth.
Roma visits Bologna on Saturday ahead of its trip to Barcelona three days later in the Champions League.
Fiorentina hosts mid-table Empoli on Sunday, Inter faces promoted Frosinone, and Napoli visits struggling Hellas Verona.
On Sunday, it's: Udinese vs. Sampdoria; Atalanta vs. Torino; Carpi vs. Chievo Verona; Genoa vs. Sassuolo; and Lazio vs. Palermo.
Security at stadiums will be increased after the Paris attacks.
Here are some things to know about this weekend's matches:
BUFFON'S 20-YEAR ANNIVERSARY: Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is being celebrated this week for the 20th anniversary of his Serie A debut.
Buffon appeared for Parma as a 17-year-old on Nov. 19, 1995 and kept a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw with eventual champion AC Milan.
As luck happens, Buffon's next opponent is also Milan although he may miss the match with a minor injury.
Buffon has helped Juventus to six Serie A titles, and won the 2006 World Cup with Italy.
"Defying the passage of time, the legend continues," Juventus wrote in a celebration of Buffon on its website.
CHOPPED WINGS: Roma will likely be without both of its key wingers at Bologna, as Gervinho joined Mohamed Salah on the injured list.
Gervinho picked up a right thigh problem while playing for Ivory Coast in a 3-0 win over Liberia.
Salah twisted his right ankle in a derby win over Lazio before the international break.
Iago Falque and Juan Iturbe should line up instead around center forward Edin Dzeko, with Roma's 39-year-old captain, Francesco Totti, also still out.
Bologna has won two straight and escaped the relegation zone after Roberto Donadoni was hired to replace fired coach Delio Rossi.
MONTELLA'S RETURN: Vincenzo Montella will make his debut as Sampdoria coach at Udinese, marking a return to Genoa for the manager who played three seasons for the club in the 1990s.
Montella replaced Walter Zenga, who was fired after Samp's 2-0 loss to Fiorentina left the team in 10th place.
Montella reportedly had to pay an escape clause to Fiorentina, the club that he was still under contract with and coached the past three seasons.
Montella signed a contract through 2017-18 with Samp.
"I'm returning for the third time, it's a bit emotional," said Montella, who also concluded his playing career with Samp in 2009.
Andrew Dampf can be followed at www.twitter.com/asdampf