Napoli delay Juve's party, while Fiorentina aim to have last laugh over Milan


Juventus moved one step closer to title glory with their derby win

Napoli may have put Juventus’ title celebrations on hold for a week, but the Old Lady won’t be too concerned. Now she can get down to preparing a scudetto homecoming at Juventus Stadium next Sunday.

The defending champions need only a point against Palermo to claim their 29th title (31st, if you ask them) after overcoming city rivals Torino in a tense derby that was settled late with goals from Arturo Vidal and local boy Claudio Marchisio.

Tellingly, both goals came from the Juve engine room that has been the difference between Antonio Conte’s side and the rest of the league. On that midfield battleground it was Paul Pogba who strode through scything challenges and body-checks to emerge head and shoulders above everyone else on the rain-sodden pitch.

The Frenchman’s performance summed up the Bianconeri’s approach throughout the domestic campaign - efficient, commanding and never once on the back foot.

Meanwhile, even without the suspended Edinson Cavani, Napoli were full of inventiveness as they cut through Pescara for a 3-0 win to further cement their hold on second place.

AS Roma gave a hint of what might have been with a mesmerising first-half show starring Francesco Totti, Pablo Osvaldo and Erik Lamela. Osvaldo grabbed a hat-trick in the 4-0 rout but the bad boy from Buenos Aires was still booed by a section of the home support.

However, for star-spangled entertainment in this run-in you need look no further than Fiorentina, a delight to watch under Vincenzo Montella. He, of course, was shipped out of Roma to make way for Luis Enrique.

By Sunday afternoon, after a 3-0 win at Sampdoria, the Viola were up to third on the back of six wins in their last eight matches. In doing so they sent a warning shot to AC Milan, who are still in danger of missing out on the final Champions League spot. That would surely signal the end for Massimiliano Allegri, who the Italian press are already reporting will be replaced by former favourite Clarence Seedorf.

Montella, however, has no worries about his future. In fact, it is more likely that Fiorentina owners Diego and Andrea Della Valle will be fending off a number of clubs - including Milan and Inter - for his services this summer.

This time last year, Montella was leading Catania to their own Champions League of sorts, a record points haul of 48 points, before being lured away to Florence. The Tuscan club decided to make a fresh start in the summer after a string of tumultuous campaigns that saw a number of coaches come and go, including former head honcho Delio Rossi - sacked for attacking his own player, Adem Ljajic, during a match.


Ljajic made his point to former boss Delio Rossi in Fiorentina's 3-0 win

An affirmative end to this poisonous environment was required. This being Italy, out went nearly the whole first-team squad in the summer, while in the opposite direction arrived experienced transfer operator, Daniele Pradè, alongside Montella.

Sniffing around Europe for talented players who would fit into Montella’s attacking approach, the club targeted Villarreal, newly relegated from la Liga. Gonzalo Rodriguez arrived in defence, while Borja Valero was snared to dovetail with David Pizarro and Alberto Aquilani in midfield.

However, it has been one of those associated with that toxic environment, Ljajic, who has thrived with a second opportunity. Another of last season’s overpaid and spoilt underachievers, Alessio Cerci, meanwhile, has dazzled with Torino.

But while many fans would have welcomed a swing at the pair in the past, both have flourished this season. Cerci even made his Italy debut on the back of a series of impressive performances for his new club.

Ljajic looked set to be on his way after the bust-up with Rossi. But instead the 21-year-old, who had been close to joining Manchester United before arriving at Fiorentina in 2010, has shone under Montella.

Injuries to Stevan Jovetic have seen the young Serb become the unlikely fulcrum, with three goals in four matches throughout April. Couple that with a previously untapped desire to track back and Fiorentina have a winning formula. It is a trait their other fleet-footed forward, Juan Cuadrado, has also displayed.

Ljajic’s latest strike, which took his total to eight for the season, must have been the sweetest, given it came against his old nemesis Rossi, now in charge at Sampdoria.

After slotting home from inside the area, Ljaijic ran past the home dugout wagging a finger in the general direction of his old tormentor before pestering the opposition defence with a series of dazzling runs which culminated in an assist for Aquilani.

It was the perfect riposte to last season’s plight but more importantly came with a smile and genuine happiness, something that has swept through Fiorentina under Montella.

Fiorentina have become the league’s real crowd pleasers and even though Milan regained third after their 4-2 win over Catania, it could be the rejuvenated Viola that have the last laugh. 

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