Juventus desperate to halt slump

Italian champions must 'rediscover their edge' as poor results slash their lead in Serie A with Lazio not far behind.
Last Modified: 17 Jan 2013 14:58
Juventus have seen their lead at the top of Serie A slashed by eight points to three by Lazio in the last two consecutive weekends [AFP]

Defending Italian champions Juventus will be desperate to halt a slump which has slashed their lead in the Serie A when they host in-form Udinese on Saturday.

Juventus led by an impressive eight points at the start of the year, but a home loss to 10-man Sampdoria and a draw against Parma means they are just three points ahead of second-place Lazio, who face Palermo.

Third-place Napoli face Fiorentina, who are also having a poor run, while Roma face Inter Milan for the first of three matches between them in 10 days.

‘Hunger and humility’

"Now we have to concentrate more and rediscover our edge because Lazio and Napoli are on our heels,'' Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci said.

"But we still have an advantage and we will need hunger and humility to increase the gap again.

"Against Sampdoria we had the wrong approach in the second half and it was an important lesson for us. Against Parma we were more careful, but that's football for you: there are times when you don't get the results and don't come away with the points.''

Claudio Marchisio is back in training following a knee injury and could return, but key defender Giorgio Chiellini is out, as is Simone Pepe and Nicklas Bendtner.

Udinese have had an impressive start to the year, beating Inter and Fiorentina and scoring three goals in both matches, with Antonio Di Natale notching two goals in each.

It is Francesco Guidolin's 500th Serie A game as a coach.

Italian fixtures

Saturday 19 January

Palermo v Lazio
Juventus v Udinese

Sunday 20 January

Fiorentina v Napoli
AC Milan v Bologna
Atalanta v Cagliari
Chievo v Parma
Genoa v Catania
Pescara v Torino
Siena v Sampdoria
Roma v Inter Milan

"You don't need to be in a top club to be considered a good coach,'' Guidolin said.

"Ifelt bitter in the past when I saw younger colleagues passing me by, but I've felt at home since I came back to Udine.

"Breaking this record with Udinese makes me even prouder.''

Goalkeeper Zeljko Brkic is out after breaking his finger in the previous match, which gives Daniele Padelli a chance to stake his claim.

Pressure’s on

By the time Juventus kick off, Lazio could be level with the Serie A leaders after taking on Palermo earlier in the day.

Striker Miroslav Klose has been ruled out with a thigh injury and joins Alvaro Gonzalez and Ederson on the sidelines.

"Juve is the strongest side in the league and the favourite to win it in the end,'' Lazio midfielder Lorik Cana said.

"If they play as they can they are almost untouchable. However, we can compete with everyone, on all fronts.

"We're playing them in the Italian Cup, I think we can do it. They remain favourites in the league, but we'll continue with our heads held high.''

Lazio have won nine of their past 10 games in all competitions, while Palermo have lost six of their past seven.

Napoli would be level on points with Lazio if not for a two-point penalty they received for match-fixing after their former goalkeeper confessed to arranging the result of a game three seasons ago.

They are currently appealing against that and should hear the outcome before they face fifth-place Fiorentina on Sunday.

Fiorentina are going through a poor run of results. They lost their first two league games of the year before going out of the Italian Cup with a 1-0 loss to Roma on Wednesday.

Roma, who have also lost their past two league games, will be hoping that result boosts them when they take on fourth-place Inter. They also face Inter home and away in the Italian Cup semi-finals this month.

AC Milan host Bologna with Giampaolo Pazzini, who has been struggling lately, hoping for a similar game to earlier in the season, which saw him score a hat trick.


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