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Football
Conte coy over Juve title hopes
Juventus coach believes AC Milan are still favourites to win the Serie A title despite closing the gap to two points.
Last Modified: 02 Apr 2012 12:10
Second-half goals from Leonardo Bonucci, Arturo Vidal and Fabio Quagliarella steered a jubilant Juve past Napoli on Sunday, placing them just two points behind leaders Milan and setting up a thrilling final few games [EPA]

Antonio Conte refuses to get carried away by Juventus's 3-0 win over Napoli, which took them to within two points of Serie A leaders AC Milan.

Instead, the Juve coach preferred to focus on the fact his side were now 11 points clear of third place.

With eight matches remaining, and 24 points to play for, barring a spectacular collapse Juve should finish inside the top two, meaning they will qualify directly for next season's European Champions League group stage.

And having also reached the Italian Cup final, where they will play Napoli, Conte is chalking off, one by one, the objectives his side have achieved.

"In the last two games we've decisively beaten Inter Milan and Napoli, two teams who began the season with more quality and a better squad," he said following Sunday's victory.

"With this victory we've hypothetically secured second place, which, added to reaching the Italian Cup final, means we're having an amazing season."

Title race

Although he is being coy about Juve's chances, Conte admitted that with only two points separating his side from Milan, they are hoping to reel in the champions and overtake them.

They made up two points this weekend as Milan were held 1-1 at Catania.

"We'll also keep an eye above us, even though we know that Milan are still favourites and will probably win the scudetto," added Conte.

"Against Fiorentina and Inter we took to the field with a seven-point deficit (and a game in hand) and there was more tension compared to (against Napoli, when the gap was five points).

"From now until the end, we need to try to be ready if they (Milan) slip up but in any case, being so close gives us great strength for the fight."

Conte may not be getting carried away but his players are buoyed and centre-back Leonardo Bonucci, who opened the scoring against Napoli in a fortuitous manner, says they are in great shape for the run-in.

Delight for Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci as the title race goes down to the wire [EPA]

"We played with great intensity and nastiness, keeping Napoli out of the game, crushing them from start to finish," he said.

"It really was a great Juve. We know we had to exploit (Milan's) slip and we were really up for it.

"We believe and we'll fight to the end. We have to try because we're in great physical shape and we've worked hard to reach this point.

"We won't let up, we'll keep pursuing the dream while hoping they miss a step."

For Napoli it was a missed opportunity to draw level with Lazio - who lost 3-1 at Parma - in third place, the final Champions League berth.

Now the two face a crunch clash in the capital at the weekend.

"Third place is getting a little more complicated but it's possible to lose to this Juventus," said Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri.

"We were still in the game at 1-0 but the second goal took our legs away and made us lose courage.

"We were also a bit anxious. It's disappointing but we'll keep going and think about the next game."

Source:
AFP
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