Parma first, Real second – says Juve ace Pirlo
ANDREA Pirlo insists Juventus will put their upcoming Champions League clash against Real Madrid on the back burner until the Serie A champions deal with a tricky away trip to Parma.
Juventus sit in third place in Italy’s Serie A with a fivepoint deficit to record-setting leaders Roma and on the same tally as second-placed Napoli ahead of their home fixture against Catania.
Roma dominated basement side Chievo throughout a 1-0 win at the Olympic Stadium on Thursday to make it 10 wins from 10 opening games, extending the all-time Serie A record of nine they set last weekend.
Juventus, who fell to a 2-1 defeat on their recent visit to Madrid, host Real in Turin on Tuesday when Antonio Conte’s side need a win if they are to realistically have a chance of qualifying for the last-16 knockout phase.
Bef o r e then the Bianconeri travel to Parma, where midfield veteran Pirlo, said it will be crucial to build on a positive return of six goals from their last two home wins since a stunning 4- 2 reverse to Fiorentina two weeks ago.
“It was important to get back on track with two consecutive wins at home and to keep in touch with the top of the table,” Pirlo said after Juve’s 4- 0 rout of Catania on Wednesday.
“On Wednesday, we started well, we got into our stride straight away and tried to secure the points as soon as possible.”
Juventus are tipped to collect all three points, but Parma would would be forgiven for feeling confident of an upset following a 3-2 win at home to AC Milan last week.
Pirlo, whose side face Napoli away following their home clash against Real, said Juve need to focus.
“We have to focus first on Parma, that comes before Real Madrid, so we have to prepare as best we can and get a result.”
Napoli suffered a first shock of the season in a 1-1 home draw against new boys Sassuolo last month, but since then Rafael Benitez’s men have claimed 12 of a possible 15 points including a precious victory away to Fiorentina in midweek.
Benitez’s men will also be tipped to keep in touch with Roma when they host a Catania side which is still reeling over an injury suffered by key striker Gonzalo Bergessio which has sidelined the Argentinian for two months.
Bergessio suffered a fractured shinbone in a clash with Juventus’s Giorgio Chiellini in Wednesday’s defeat and is not expected to return until after the Christmas break.
It is a significant blow for the Sicilians, who sit third from bottom with one win and six points from 10 games, and prompted club president Antonino Pulvirenti to hit out.
“The tackle was unnecessarily violent, arrogant and cowardly,” Pulvirenti said on Thursday.
Fiorentina are still fuming over a 2-1 defeat to Napoli on Wednesday at the end of which Colombian Juan Cuadrado saw red after alleged simulation despite being fouled in the area.
It was only La Viola’s second reverse of the season and gives them reason to capitalise on the mini-crisis at AC Milan, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Lazio in midweek.
The pressure is on Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri, who called for his side to roll up their sleeves.
“It’s a bad spell for us. We’re far off third place and we have to start winning again to climb the table,” said Allegri.
“But we can’t let our heads go down. If we keep playing as we are I’m sure the results will come.” – Sapa-AFP