5 things to know about the Italian league
MILAN (AP) — Juventus visits Genoa on Sunday night looking to maintain its charge to a third successive Italian league title. It has a 14-point advantage over second-placed Roma, which has a game in hand.
Roma hosts Udinese on Monday, a couple of hours after Napoli’s trip to Torino.
At the other end of the table, the bottom four clubs all play each other with 19th-placed Catania visiting bottom club Sassuolo, and Livorno hosting Bologna.
Here are five things to know about the Italian league this weekend:
AC Milan has to move swiftly to recover from its Champions League disappointment if it wants to qualify for Europe next season.
Milan lost 4-1 at Atletico Madrid on Tuesday as it became the last Italian team eliminated from Europe’s elite club competition.
Clarence Seedorf’s men can now only aim for a place in next season’s Europa League.
Languishing 10th in Serie A, Milan is eight points behind Parma, the team which currently holds the last qualifying spot and its opponent on Saturday.
“It’s not true at all that Milan doesn’t want to go to the Europa League,” Milan Vice President Adriano Galliani said. “This will be the club’s target from now until the end of the season.
“Sunday we have to win against Parma and so get to within five points of them. Milan has always been in Europe in the past few years and so wants to continue being there.”
JUVE HEADING FOR HAT TRICK
Juventus beat Fiorentina 1-0 on Sunday to move 14 points clear at the top of the Italian League standings, after second-placed Roma lost 1-0 at Napoli.
However, Roma has a game in hand and Juventus coach Antonio Conte refuses to acknowledge — publically at least — that his team has one hand on a third straight league title.
“Nothing’s changed, the battle for the title isn’t over,” Conte said. “There’s still 11 matches, which is 33 points.”
Juventus, which is in the midst of a Europa League tie with Fiorentina, travels to Genoa on Sunday looking for a fifth straight victory.
PERSONNEL PROBLEMS FOR ROMA
Juventus may not be admitting the title fight is over, but Roma has all but thrown in the towel.
Coach Rudi Garcia has said that now his team must aim for second spot after the weekend’s defeat left it looking nervously over its shoulder.
Roma is now only three points ahead of Napoli and has a weakened team for Monday’s match against Udinese.
Daniele De Rossi has two more matches to sit out following his three-match ban for punching Inter Milan’s Mauro Icardi. Another key midfielder is also out after Kevin Strootman seriously injured his knee against Napoli.
The Dutch international is expected to be sidelined for six months and will miss the World Cup in Brazil.
Maicon is also suspended but Roma will likely welcome back talismanic captain Francesco Totti
BENITEZ THE MASTER
Napoli is enjoying an impressive season and will be looking to draw level with Roma when it visits Torino on Monday.
Not only does it have second spot in Serie A in its sights, but it is also in the Italian Cup final and in the Europa League last 16, after being eliminated from the Champions League despite getting 12 points from its group games.
Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis believes it is down to one man — coach Rafa Benitez.
“Rafa came to a new league, he inherited only half of last season’s squad, as well as having to fit in 12 new players,” he said. “Despite all this, in the first year up until now we are third, we are playing very well in Europe which has never happen in the past and we are in the Italian Cup final.
“I have to say that Rafa Benitez is a master of football. He is a unique person, really profound and I am happy to be able to work with him for our future.”
BATTLE FOR EUROPE
After losing at Parma last weekend, Hellas Verona now faces another direct rival for a European place when it hosts Inter Milan on Saturday.
Verona has dropped off the pace of late and sits four points behind Inter in the standings after just one win in its past five matches.
Following a poor start to 2014, Inter is now unbeaten in its past five games.
“Inter has a squad full of so many champions, who form a strong group,” said Verona’s Juan Manuel Iturbe, who has been linked with a move to Inter in the summer. “But we will try to do our game, taking advantage of the fact that we’re playing at home, hoping that it will be a good night.”