5 things to know about the Italian league
Feb. 20, 2014
MILAN (AP) — Juventus hosts Torino in a derby match on Sunday with the league leader looking to extend its impressive home form. Torino is also in good form but has not triumphed in the derby since 1995.
Elsewhere, AC Milan will be hoping to recover from Champions League disappointment at Sampdoria.
Roma and Napoli will be hoping to keep up the pressure on Juventus when they play Bologna and Genoa respectively.
Here are five things to know about the Italian league this weekend:
AC Milan may have lost the first leg of its Champions League last 16 tie against Atletico Madrid but it will be boosted by its best performance of the season.
Milan hit the woodwork three times and dominated against the Spanish joint league leader before going down to a late Diego Costa header on Wednesday.
Clarence Seedorf will be hoping Milan can start putting on similar displays in the league, starting with Sunday's trip to Sampdoria.
Seedorf is sweating on the fitness of Mario Balotelli. The Italy forward went off clutching his shoulder 12 minutes from time.
"What a great but unlucky Milan yesterday," Balotelli wrote on twitter on Thursday. "But very well done lads. Hope everything is gonna be ok with my shoulder!"
Milan is already without Stephan El Shaarawy, Valter Birsa, Robinho, Bryan Cristante and Cristian Zapata, who are all injured. Defender Mattia De Sciglio is also a doubt after he had to be substituted early on against Atletico following a crunching challenge.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY RUDI
Roma coach Rudi Garcia turned 50 on Thursday and marked the occasion with the release of his autobiography, entitled "All roads lead to Rome."
The Frenchman will be hoping to further celebrate his birthday with a victory at relegation-threatened Bologna on Saturday to keep up the pressure on league leader Juventus.
Roma is nine points behind Juventus but crucially has a game in hand
Garcia already has part of his mind on next season and Europe's elite club competition.
"Honestly my next target is to do well in the Champions League," he said. "First we have to end up getting into the Champions League and especially we have to have the means to do well in it.
"That's my aim and I hope it will also be that of the club."
Bologna is 16th in the league table, just two points above the relegation zone.
Torino is the overwhelming underdog ahead of Sunday's derby match at league leader and reigning two-time league champion Juventus.
Juventus sits comfortably atop the standings and has won all 12 of its home league matches this season.
Torino is enjoying an impressive season and is aiming for a club-record 13th successive match without defeat but has not won a derby match since 1995.
It is hoping its good form will see it end the run of 15 derby matches without a win.
Giampiero Ventura's side has lost only twice in more than three months, winning seven of its past 12 matches, and lies seventh in the league following an important 3-1 win over Hellas Verona.
"We know we're facing a team which is stronger than us and we will do so with humility," Ventura said. "People have always told me that is a match apart, in which other factors don't count. We will try to prove them right."
Torino's hopes will rest on Ciro Immobile and Alessio Cerci, who both scored against Verona.
Immobile is co-owned by Juventus and has scored 13 goals this season to put him joint second with Bianconeri striker Carlos Tevez in the Serie A goalscoring charts.
Cerci has 11 goals.
NAPOLI STILL BELIEVE
Napoli may be 13 points behind league leader Juventus but star striker Gonzalo Higuain believes it can still win the title.
"Absolutely, we can," Higuain said. "Yes, we did lose those games (against Roma and Juventus) but the season is long and there are a lot of games to be played.
"I came to Napoli because the team is in position to win a title. They brought in Rafa Benitez and he wanted me to be part of his plans for the season. I came to this team to win, and I think we are in great position to do so."
Napoli has won its past two league games and also reached the Italian Cup final, beating Roma 3-0 for a 5-3 aggregate victory.
Higuain has scored 12 league goals for Napoli this season.
Third-placed Napoli hosts Genoa on Monday and will also be looking to preserve its four-point advantage over Fiorentina.
Chievo Verona hosts Catania on Sunday in what is a real relegation battle.
Only a point separates the two sides in the bottom three, although they are on very different runs.
Catania seemed destined for relegation at the start of the year but has hauled itself off bottom spot with a run of three draws before last week's impressive victory over Lazio.
Chievo is in a downward spiral. It is on a run of nine matches without a win, with six of those ending in defeat.
Catania is also undefeated in the last four meetings between the sides, winning three and conceding only one goal.
Chievo is two points off safety, with Catania just a point better off.