ROME: Juventus are closing in on two prizes currently held by AC Milan as the Serie A race heads into a crucial and demanding period of the season.
Following the postponement of last weekend’s games due to the death of Livorno’s Piermario Morosini, top flight teams now face a run of five games in two weeks.
Not only are Juve defending a one-point lead at the top of the table over champions Milan but the Old Lady of Turin are also closing in on the rossoneri’s record unbeaten run.
Back in the days of Fabio Capello, Milan went 42 games unbeaten over 11 months from April 1992 to March 1993.
Juve’s current run stands at 37 games in league and cup, starting with the final match of last season.
If they get through the next two weeks without a loss, they will match Milan’s marker while remaining unbeaten to the end of the league season would allow them to surpass their rivals.
It has been a remarkable turnaround for a team that finished seventh in the previous two seasons and missed out on European competition in this campaign.
More than the unbeaten record, Juve are aiming for a league and cup double and have a cup final to come against Napoli a week after the Serie A season ends.
But the main prize is the scudetto and with six games left, Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri says it will come down to a mental battle.
“The team which keeps its nerve will win,” he said.
Milan have a slight advantage in playing first this weekend, at home to lowly Bologna.
Should they win, the pressure would be on Juve ahead of their meeting tomorrow against Roma.
But while all teams have a difficult next two weeks coming up, Milan forward Maxi Lopez says the rest over the last seven days has done them the world of good.
“We can’t let up at all, we managed to train well this week. Today’s match will be the first of six finals,” he said.
A couple of weeks ago the general consensus was that Juve had the tougher run-in but they have won their two toughest assignments against Napoli and Lazio, meaning Milan now appear to face the greater pitfalls, including a derby with Inter Milan in their penultimate match.
However, after the clash with Roma, Juve face the bottom three, which could be a difficult prospect against teams fighting for their lives, although both Cesena and Novara could be already relegated by the time they play the leaders.
Cesena could go down this weekend if they lose at home to Palermo and Genoa get at least a point at home to Siena.
If Novara lose at Napoli, they could also be relegated in midweek.
That match is not just crucial to Novara’s future but also Napoli’s.
They have lost their last three and failed to win in five leaving them six points behind Lazio in third, the final Champions League qualification position.
That battle looks set to go down to the wire, in part because none of the teams in contention are in good form.
Lazio have lost three of their last five while fourth-placed Udinese have lost three of their last six and have only one win in seven.
Those two play next weekend in what could be a decisive encounter.
This weekend Lazio host third-bottom Lecce while Udinese are at mid-table Chievo.
The other two teams in with a chance are Inter, who travel to Fiorentina, and Roma, although like Napoli, both will need to string some wins together to overhaul Lazio. — AFP
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