Icardi up for Ron­aldo test as In­ter face Juve

Mi­lan club hope to in­flict first de­feat this sea­son on cham­pi­ons, keep ti­tle race alive

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - FRONT PAGE -

MI­LAN: Mauro Icardi said he was rel­ish­ing the chance to mea­sure him­self against Cris­tiano Ron­aldo for the first time as In­ter Mi­lan travel to Turin Fri­day look­ing to in­flict the first de­feat of the sea­son on Ital­ian cham­pi­ons Ju­ven­tus and keep the Serie A ti­tle race alive.

Ju­ven­tus have set a fre­netic pace this sea­son since sign­ing Ron­aldo, mak­ing a record start with 40 points after the first 14 games in Serie A.

Napoli are sec­ond – eight points be­hind Juve – with In­ter 11 points adrift of the cham­pi­ons in third.

A de­feat for In­ter in the ‘Derby D’Italia’ be­tween the two north­ern gi­ants would likely be a killer blow to their am­bi­tions and leave Ju­ven­tus free to claim an eighth con­sec­u­tive ti­tle.

“I’ve played [Ju­ven­tus] many times but this is the most im­por­tant since I’ve been here,” Icardi said.

“I won’t set­tle for a draw. We must go there with­out fear.

“I can’t wait to play against Cris­tiano Ron­aldo, it will be a plea­sure to have him up front. But he’s not my prob­lem, [de­fend­ers] Ste­fan de Vrij and Mi­lan Skriniar are there.”

The 25-year-old Icardi has been in fine form this sea­son, scor­ing eight Serie A goals and 11 in all com­pe­ti­tions, with Ron­aldo, 33, hav­ing bagged 10 in Serie A and 11 in to­tal for Ju­ven­tus.

In­ter’s last win in Turin dates back to Novem­ber 2012.

But In­ter’s Chi­nese pres­i­dent Steven Zhang in­sisted his side “are al­ways con­fi­dent.”

“We’re ready for the match. We’re im­prov­ing and play­ing bet­ter, ev­ery sea­son we try to do bet­ter than the pre­vi­ous one.”

In­ter coach Lu­ciano Spal­letti will also have an eye on next week’s de­ci­sive Cham­pi­ons League game against PSV Eind­hoven in the San Siro, with Bel­gian mid­fielder Radja Naing­golan still re­cov­er­ing from an an­kle in­jury.

Ju­ven­tus are al­ready through to the knock­out rounds of the Cham­pi­ons League be­fore their game against Young Boys in Switzer­land next week.

But Por­tuguese star Ron­aldo will be look­ing to make a point after miss­ing out on a record sixth Bal­lon d’Or tro­phy to former Real Madrid team­mate Luka Mo­dric this week.

Ju­ven­tus coach Mas­si­m­il­iano Al­le­gri be­lieves that it will be an added mo­ti­va­tion for the striker.

“His mo­ti­va­tion now is to win it next year with Ju­ven­tus,” Al­le­gri said. “It’s the game of the year be­cause it’s the Derby d’Italia and that’s al­ways one of the tough­est, five out of five on the dif­fi­culty scale, but then we need to get to May and win the Scud­etto.”

Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli side will be look­ing to keep pace with Ju­ven­tus at home against sec­ond-from­bot­tom Frosi­none be­fore their crunch jour­ney to Liver­pool next week in Europe.

AC Mi­lan bid to con­sol­i­date fourth place against Torino, as Lazio, a point be­hind in fifth, host midtable Sam­p­do­ria after be­ing held by bot­tom club Chievo last week­end.

Roma – safely through to the last 16 in Europe – need to bring points back from Cagliari to sal­vage their flag­ging Serie A cam­paign as they sit sev­enth – 20 points be­hind Ju­ven­tus. –

The 25-year-old Icardi has scored eight Serie A goals and 11 in all com­pe­ti­tions this sea­son.

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