Milan derby could add to Juventus jitters

Juventus have suffered so many trials and tribulations since their 2006 match-fixing demotion that a few nerves are understandable as they seek to clinch the Serie A title in Sunday's penultimate game against Cagliari.

Victory and the scudetto could be theirs by the end of the day. A draw or a defeat, though, would allow AC Milan the chance to take over at the top if they beat city rivals Inter Milan in a derby they are bound to be hyped for.

Luckily for Juventus, they will have played Cagliari on Sunday before the Milan derby kicks off, meaning the Turin club know what they have to do without having the extra pressure of seeing Milan overhaul their one-point lead before they play.

However, the mind plays tricks at the back end of the season and Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was under no pressure when he inexplicably and uncharacteristically lost control of the ball in Wednesday's 1-1 home draw with third-bottom Lecce.

Andrea Bertolacci took advantage to slot into an empty net for the equaliser five minutes from time as the Juventus Stadium fell silent in shock and Lecce kept the survival hopes alive.

"Gigi made an error just like we made many further forward," coach Antonio Conte told reporters.

"He's having a fantastic championship and has saved us on many occasions.

"We've squandered a chance but we'll look ahead knowing that it's still in our hands. Before the season began we would have been delighted to be leading by a point, unbeaten and with a Coppa Italia final to play as we go into the penultimate game."

Having finished seventh in the last two seasons when the weight of expectation at Italy's best supported club was too much for a side still recovering from 2006, Juve's achievements are remarkable in Conte's first campaign in charge.

MORE FANS

They are still on course to match Fabio Capello's 1991/92 Milan side who went the whole league season unbeaten and have another reason to smile against Cagliari on Sunday.

The Sardinians have been forced to play their home games in Trieste, 800 kilometres from Cagliari on the Italian mainland because of safety problems at the intimidating Stadio Sant'Elia.

There will be more Juve fans at the less imposing Trieste ground than Cagliari fans given they draw support from all over the country.

Champions Milan beat Atalanta 2-0 at home on Wednesday to cut Juve's lead to a point and meet an Inter side whose hopes of snatching third spot and a Champions League qualifying berth were hit by a midweek 3-1 loss at Parma.

Inter, three points behind third-placed Napoli, are nominally the home team and the chance of reviving their push for third by beating their city rivals and possibly denying them a second successive title is mouth-watering for the Nerazzurri.

The problem is their fans probably hate Juve even more.

"There's a favour to be done this year for one or the other," Inter president Massimo Moratti told reporters when discussing Juve and Milan. "It's the same either way."

At the bottom, Novara and Cesena have already gone and Lecce lie three points adrift but host a Fiorentina team on Saturday who are not yet safe and are in chaos.

Delio Rossi was sacked after punching his own player Adem Ljajic during Wednesday's 2-2 draw with Novara and team manager Vincenzo Guerini has been promoted to coach.


SHARES
comments