Parma first, Real sec­ond – says Juve ace Pirlo

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

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

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