5 things to know about the Italian league
MILAN (AP) — Roma will be looking to boost its faint title hopes still further when it visits Cagliari on Sunday, after cutting Juventus’ advantage almost in half during the past week.
Juventus hosts Livorno, while third-placed Napoli travels to Parma.
There is also the derby match between Hellas Verona and Chievo Verona this weekend.
Here are five things to know about the Italian league this weekend:
JUVE IN CRISIS?
Juventus has found itself in a somewhat peculiar position for the illustrious club this week as it recovers from only its second defeat of the season.
Antonio Conte’s side lost 2-0 at Napoli to end a run of seven successive victories and spark talk of a club in crisis.
“It surprises me a bit,” Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio said. “I read an article in which it said Juventus’ ‘rule’ is coming to an end. We’ve done extraordinary things in these past few years, and we even still keep improving and enjoying greater leads over rivals who have strengthened.
“It’s curious to hear talk of Juventus in crisis because the team lost one game by adopting the wrong approach. This side has always grown and will continue to do so.
The defending champion hosts relegation-threatened Livorno looking to extend its record run of home victories, having won all 15 of its league matches at the Juventus Stadium.
It has been a good week for Roma, which has seen its faltering Serie A title hopes reignited.
Last week it was 14 points behind the two-time defending champion, but the weekend results coupled with winning its game in hand has seen Roma slash the difference to just eight.
Wednesday’s 4-2 victory against Parma also ensured it extended its advantage over third-placed Napoli to nine points.
“This is what we wanted,” Roma coach Rudi Garcia said. “We were the only ones playing and the outcome was positive. There was nothing to lose, we just needed to earn points. Now we have the second best attack in the league, which means the team is dangerous and playing well.
“We took a step forward, but until we are mathematically certain of our position we have to keep winning, also to hope until the end against Juventus.”
Roma visits struggling Cagliari on Sunday, knowing it can provisionally cut the difference to five points, with Juventus playing the following day.
MILAN NOT FOR SALE
The Berlusconi family claims it will not give up on AC Milan despite another difficult season.
Milan is undefeated in its past three league matches but still languishes in 11th spot in the table.
“There’s been reports about a sale of the club, but it’s not true,” club Chief Executive Barbara Berlusconi said. “We believe in this team. We want to obtain the best results.
“A partnership would be considered. For the construction of a new stadium for example, a partnership would be of great help. Our next visits to Asia and the USA are with this aim in mind. We’ve always invested a lot in the club and we’ll continue to do so.”
Milan visits Genoa on Monday.
VERONA RELY ON TONI
Much of Hellas Verona’s hopes will rest on star striker Luca Toni as it heads into Saturday’s derby match against Chievo Verona.
Toni and the club had been going through a poor period until last weekend’s 3-0 win over Genoa which snapped a run of five defeats and six matches in which Verona had failed to score.
The 36-year-old scored twice in that match to take his tally to 15 for the season and is even being talked about as a possible inclusion in Italy’s World Cup squad.
“Even I didn’t expect such a positive season,” Toni said. “But I knew I could still do well. ... The World Cup depends on (Italy coach Cesare) Prandelli and the characteristics he wants from his forwards. I think it is right that those who took the team to the competition will be called up. Form will also be decisive. I would be honored, but if I am not called up it wouldn’t be a drama.”
Chievo is only two points above the relegation zone.
Napoli has not given up on the idea of beating Roma to second place in Serie A and automatic Champions League qualification.
Napoli is brimming with confidence after beating Juventus last weekend but is nine points behind Roma with seven rounds remaining.
“Napoli-Juve is an eternal battle, a special match which goes beyond the Serie A contest,” Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis said. “It’s a match which is always played with a strong competitive spirit, as it should be.
“I told the team after the game that I would be delighted to give them a reward if they managed to reach second place. With (coach Rafa) Benitez we are already planning the future, I’ve been president for almost 10 years and I want to reach even higher results with this squad.”
Napoli visits Europa League-chasing Parma on Sunday.