Juve eye top spot in Serie A, but de­fence a worry

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - PEOPLE -

UN­DER-STRENGTH Ju­ven­tus ex­pect to wel­come de­fender Gior­gio Chiellini back from in­jury ahead of an away trip to Livorno that could hand the cham­pi­ons top spot, al­beit mo­men­tar­ily, in Italy’s Serie A.

Two con­sec­u­tive draws by Roma in the lead­ers’ last two out­ings have given Ju­ven­tus, in sec­ond only one point be­hind, plenty of in­cen­tive ahead of the Bian­coneri’s trip to Tus­cany.

Chiellini, who grew up in Livorno and made his pro­fes­sional de­but with the side, had been side­lined with a mus­cle prob­lem since be­fore Juve’s 3-0 rout of Napoli prior to the in­ter­na­tional break.

His re­turn is be­ing wel­comed as Juve un­dergo a mini­cri­sis in de­fence with An­gelo Og­bonna and Leonardo Bonucci both sus­pended and An­drea Barza­gli likely to be side­lined due to a mus­cle prob­lem.

Chiellini could be called upon to move from his reg­u­lar left-back po­si­tion to the cen­tre of a back three, but the 29-yearold said: “It doesn’t make any dif­fer­ence to me. I’m fit and I’m ready to play.”

Ju­ven­tus are still with­out Swiss wing-back Stephan Lich- steiner due to in­jury and lost Chilean Mauri­cio Isla on Thurs­day due to a knee lig­a­ment prob­lem.

Roma, whose record streak of 10 open­ing wins in Serie A came to an end three weeks ago, are in ac­tion late tomorrow and, on pa­per, are tipped to get back to win­ning ways at home to strug­gling Cagliari.

French in­ter­na­tional An­thony Reveillere, mean­while, could make his de­but for Napoli when they look to close the gap later to­day.

Reveillere signed for Napoli re­cently af­ter his con­tract with French side Lyon ex­pired, leav­ing him a free agent.

Hav­ing worked un­der Napoli coach Rafael Ben­itez dur­ing a brief spell at Valencia in 2003, the 34-year-old de­fender is champ­ing at the bit.

“I am at a club which is among the elite in Italy and reg­u­larly plays Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball,” said Reveillere. “I had other of­fers on the ta­ble but when the call came from Napoli I couldn’t turn it down. It’s a l s o be­cause of Ben­itez, he loves to work on the tac­ti­cal side of the game and we had a good work­ing re­la­tion­ship at Valencia.” Un­der-fire AC Mi­lan wel­come Genoa to the San Siro in to­day’s other late game hop­ing to claim their first win since a 1-0 de­feat of Udi­nese over a month ago.

Since then, Mas­si­m­il­iano Allegri’s side have taken only two points from their past four games and now sit 15 points be­hind Napoli and the fi­nal Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fy­ing place.

Fin­gers have been pointed at star striker Mario Balotelli but de­spite fail­ing to score a league goal since Mi­lan’s 2- 1 home de­feat to Napoli two months ago, he was un­re­pen­tant.

“For the last four or five games I haven’t scored and things are not go­ing so well,” said Balotelli, who last scored for Mi­lan in a 1-1 Cham­pi­ons League draw at Ajax on Oc­to­ber 1.

“But the goals will come sooner or later.”

City ri­vals In­ter Mi­lan, who sit three points adrift of Napoli, travel to Bologna look­ing to avoid any slip-ups that could ben­e­fit Fiorentina, who sit one place and one point fur­ther adrift ahead of a tricky trip away to Udi­nese.

Strug­gling Sampdoria, mean­while, hope to re­launch their sea­son un­der new coach and for­mer player Sin­isa Mi­ha­jlovic, who takes charge in time to wel­come another of his for­mer clubs, Lazio, to Genoa.

“To the play­ers I say, don’t ask what the club can do for you, but what you can do for the club,” Mi­ha­jlovic, who quit as Ser­bia coach on Wed­nes­day, said at his of­fi­cial un­veil­ing.

“I had the of­fer of a lengthy con­tract to coach Ser­bia but in­stead I chose a six-month deal at Sampdoria be­cause the club helped me to be­come what I am to­day.” – Sapa-AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.