Conte work ethic leaves Juventus looking up

ROME - Italy's most successful club Juventus have the chance to go clear at the top of Serie A for the first time in two years when they travel to Catania on Sunday.

Juventus, with 27 league titles to their name, go into the weekend level with Genoa and Udinese after two wins and a draw from an impressive opening three matches.

After struggling since the Calciopoli corruption scandal in 2006 when they were demoted to Serie B, the new-look Juve have been galvanised this term by their new stadium - the first to be privately owned by an Italian club - and a work ethic reintroduced by coach and former player Antonio Conte.

"I'm happy with what the boys have shown in these first three games," Conte told reporters after Wednesday's 1-1 draw at home to Bologna. "This team has spirit - we don't drop our heads when things go against us."

Juventus saw a glimpse of the top of the Serie A ladder for a brief period on Wednesday when Andrea Pirlo set up another new signing, Mirko Vucinic, to score in the 30th minute against struggling Bologna in a lively contest at their atmospheric, 41,000-capacity arena.

However, former Roma striker Vucinic spoiled his full home debut by getting sent off following a second booking just before half-time and the visitors came back to equalise.

"We've let slip two points but we've also been unlucky," said Conte, who may now pair up Alessandro Matri and the fit-again Fabio Quagliarella, who scored twice in Juve's 3-1 win in Sicily last season.

"There's a lot of work ahead but we're on the right road. When I preach humility and ask for time before judging, I refer to everyone."

Catania, who suffered their first defeat under new coach Vincenzo Montella at Genoa in midweek, hope veteran centre-back Nicola Legrottaglie will be fit enough to make his debut against his former club.

"Playing Juve right now is not ideal," Montella, whose side's only goal this term came from a Maxi Lopez penalty, told Italy's Sky Sport channel. "We're playing at home so we don't want to lose, but we need to improve on the road."

Inter Milan, already six points behind Juve, travel to Bologna in Saturday's early match with veteran coach Claudio Ranieri in charge after Gian Piero Gasperini was axed after Tuesday's 3-1 defeat at Serie A new boys Novara.

Gasperini, who had led out the Nerazzurri in three league matches and five matches in all, became Serie A's third coaching casualty of the season.

Champions AC Milan, who have picked up just two points after their 1-1 midweek draw against Udinese at the San Siro, will be praying for a clean bill of health when they host Cesena on Saturday ahead of Champions League week after being plagued by a rash of injuries.

On Wednesday, Brazilian striker Pato pulled up with a muscle strain, becoming the latest addition to a list that includes Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robinho, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Massimo Ambrosini, Gennaro Gattuso, Philippe Mexes and Luca Antonini.

Napoli, whose much smaller squad were put to the test after coach Walter Mazzarri rested a number of first-teamers in Wednesday's 1-0 loss to Chievo Verona, could go top for a day if they defeat Fiorentina at the San Paolo on Saturday.

In an intriguing battle of Serie A's promoted teams Atalanta, who would have been sharing top spot if they had not been docked six-points for alleged match-fixing last season, host giant-killing Novara on Sunday.