Secure scudetto now, says treble-chasing Allegri
ROME: Coach Massimiliano Allegri has urged treble-chasing Juventus to settle nerves ahead of their Champions League final with Real Madrid next month by securing the Serie A title, and another league and Cup double, tomorrow.
With only two Champions League titles to their name in eight attempts, the Turin giants are determined to make amends for their 3-1 defeat to Barcelona in 2015 when they face 11-time champions Real in Cardiff on June 3.
Juventus took one step towards a third successive league and Cup double on Wednesday with a comprehensive 2-0 Cup final win over Lazio, Dani Alves and Leonardo Bonucci on the mark for the champions during a formidable display at the Stadio Olimpico.
But Juve’s slip at Roma last week, where they looked jaded on their way to a 3-1 reverse that has added unexpected spice to the season’s finale, left a bitter taste in Allegri’s mouth.
Given Juventus are facing relegation-threatened Crotone, the odds should be firmly in the hosts’ favour.
But the Calabrians’ late-season efforts to beat the drop — they are currently one point from Empoli and the safety zone — has produced a turnaround in form in recent weeks.
“We’ve claimed our first trophy of the season, now we want the second,” Allegri said after seeing Juventus become the first Italian team to win three successive Cup finals, two of which came under his watch.
“Now, we want the second on Sunday against Crotone, who have taken 17 points from their last seven games. It will be a difficult match, so I want to see a clinical performance like tonight’s.”
Failure to do so could see Juve’s chances of keeping their hopes of a treble, last achieved in Italy by Inter Milan while under Jose Mourinho in 2010, hinge on the final day of the season.
Next weekend, Juve are away at Bologna, Roma host Genoa and Napoli are at Sampdoria and Allegri added: “We only need one more win, and we absolutely want to do it on Sunday.
“I want to see the stadium filled to the brim because it will be decisive.”
Roma, only four points off the pace, travel to Chievo for today’s early game looking to keep the pressure on and buoyed by the return of Dutch midfielder Kevin Strootman and trophy-chasing striker Edin Dzeko.
Strootman returns from a two-game ban, for simulation, while Dzeko, who leads the chase for the top scorer’s ‘Capocannoniere’ award on 27 goals — two ahead of Andrea Belotti (Torino) and Dries Mertens (Napoli) — trained this week following his recovery from a calf injury.
Napoli, in third at one point behind Roma, host Fiorentina in today’s late fixture a week after a 50 rout at Torino.
Fiorentina, in seventh and only one point behind AC Milan and a Europa League place, are missing Spanish midfielder Borja Valero through suspension.
Lazio have already qualified for the Europe League but welcome embattled Inter Milan looking to make amends for their midweek Cup loss with victory in their final home game of the season.
Less than two weeks after Stefano Pioli was sacked by Inter, youth team coach Stefano Vecchi is at the helm again but should leave injury-hit captain Mauro Icardi on the bench in place of Eder.
At the San Siro last week, the entire ‘Curva Nord’ section which houses Inter’s ‘ultras’ left the stadium after 25 minutes of a shock 2-1 loss to Sassuolo “to have lunch” — according to a banner they left behind — to protest Inter’s dire season.
Sitting four points behind city rivals Milan, the Nerazzurri need to beat Lazio to have any chance of qualifying for the Europa League.
TODAY: Chievo v Roma, Napoli v Fiorentina; TOMORROW: Empoli v Atalanta, Genoa v Torino, Juventus v Crotone, Milan v Bologna, Sassuolo v Cagliari, Udinese v Sampdoria, Lazio v Inter; MONDAY: Pescara v Palermo. AFP