Del Piero takes free kick art to new levels

MILAN - The dead-ball wizardry of Juventus forward and freekick specialist Alessandro Del Piero will occupy the minds of Genoa's goalkeeper and defenders in Thursday's Serie A match.

Del Piero has scored with freekicks in Juve's last three matches. The Juve captain curled in a wonderful freekick on his 34th birthday on Sunday to help his side to a 2-0 win at lowly Chievo and show he is in the form of his life despite his age.

His effort followed dead ball specials in last week's 2-0 Champions League win at Real Madrid and the league victory over AS Roma two weekends ago.

"In reality there are not many ways to take a freekick. The important thing is that it goes in," Del Piero told reporters. "I don't know the secret. Since I was young I have analysed free kicks and tried them. It's practice, continual practice."

Thursday's match has been brought forward from the weekend because the Italy rugby team are playing Argentina at Turin's Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.

A win for sixth-placed Juve, who have won their last four league games and last six in all competitions following a sticky patch, would send them joint-top with Inter Milan at least for a couple of days.

However, Claudio Ranieri's men will wary of in-form Genoa, seventh but just four points off the lead, after Argentine striker Diego Milito netted a hat-trick in Sunday's 4-0 win over Reggina to top the Serie A scoring charts with nine this term.

The Juve game and television commitments mean the Italian Cup last 16 ties are spread over a two-month period.

There are three ties on Wednesday. Udinese host Serie A bottom club Reggina, stuttering Sampdoria entertain second division Empoli and in-form Napoli welcome Serie B side Salernitana in one-leg matches.