Tensions are running high as Juventus travel to Inter Milan on Saturday in a game which could prove decisive for the champions’ hopes of a seventh straight Serie A title. Massimiliano Allegri’s side are being pushed all the way for the Scudetto by Napoli with their lead cut to just one point after last weekend’s 1-0 defeat by their title rivals in Turin.
Juventus have 85 points from 34 games with Napoli on 84 with four games to play this season. The champions face Inter, Bologna, Roma and Verona before the end of the season, as well as AC Milan in the Italian Cup final. Captain Gianluigi Buffon was forced to angrily dismiss reports of dressing room bickering after the Napoli defeat.
But teammate Andrea Barzagli conceded the atmosphere was tense, with the added blow of defender Giorgio Chiellini’s hamstring muscle tear.
“Maybe it has destabilised the environment a bit, because in recent years fortunately for us, we have always won and we have rarely had difficult moments, so maybe it has created a bit of tension,” said Barzagli.
“There was some bitterness towards the defeat, but we had a day off to think about what happened. “It’s all in our hands, we have to play to win in order to reach our goal.”
Juventus face a tough battle against Inter Milan who are coming off back-to-back wins and fighting for a return to the Champions League next season.
The traditional Derby d’Italia between the two northern Italian giants has already set a new Serie A record with over five million euros ($6 million) raised from the 78,328 spectators. Luciano Spalletti’s side are fifth just outside the berths for elite European football next season one point behind Roma and Lazio who both have 67 points.
“Juve is strong and angry, but we cannot go wrong to reach the Champions League,” said Inter Milan midfielder Antonio Candreva. “What we are focussed on is our ambitions, to gain the Champions League spot.”
Inter held Juventus to a goalless draw in Turin last December. Napoli, riding high after their first victory at Juventus Stadium, head to Fiorentina determined to keep their push for a third Scudetto after 1987 and 1990 alive.
“We only have to think about our next game, without getting carried away. It’s going to be tough,” said Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri. Fiorentina four points off the Europa League places are coming off consecutive defeats to end their eight-game unbeaten run following the death of captain Davide Astori.
On Saturday, Roma host Chievo two points above the relegation zone four days before they welcome Liverpool to the Stadio Olimpico looking to overturn a 5-2 first leg deficit in the Champions League.
Eusebio Di Francesco will have to do without Kevin Strootman (bruised ribs) and Diego Perotti (ankle sprain) who picked up injuries at Anfield. Lazio travel Sunday to Torino while AC Milan play Bologna looking to return into the Europa League places a week after their defeat to rock bottom Benevento.
Gennaro Gattuso’s side are one point off Atalanta who occupy the final Europa League berth with Sampdoria and Fiorentina also in the mix. In the fight against the drop, relegation rivals Verona and SPAL go head-to-head, with already-relegated Benevento hosting threatened Udinese. -AFP