Serie A preview: Juve primed as closest rivals clash
By Football News
Juventus may prove the big winners as Lazio and Napoli play on Saturday in the battle between the Serie A's second and third-placed teams.
Second-placed Napoli drew level on points with Italian leader Juventus last weekend when they beat Catania 2-0 on Saturday evening, but Juve responded by restoring their three-point buffer on top with a 2-1 win over Chievo Verona the following day.
Juventus, though, will be hoping third-placed Lazio, who are nine points adrift of Juve after winning just one of their past four games, can take points off Napoli.
Napoli's form, however, is in stark contrast to Lazio, as the southern club has won their past two matches while Lazio have lost theirs.
Lazio were stiff to have dropped the points in last weekend's clash with Genoa as the capital outfit shipped a 95th-minute equaliser to Marco Rigoni when a 2-2 draw looked a virtual formality.
But if Lazio can hit back and even simply draw with Napoli, it would give Juve the opportunity to extend their lead when they host sixth-placed Fiorentina in Saturday's early match.
Both these clubs were massive rivals through the early part of the century before Juve's demotion to Serie B through the Calciopoli scandal, but the teams will have the opportunity to renew hostilities.
The match may also prove something of an audition for Fiorentina forward Stevan Jovetic, who is on the radar for both Juve and Manchester City, and could prove a handy source of cash for the Florence-based side.
In Sunday's games, the main focus will turn to AC Milan as coach Massimiliano Allegri gets the chance to field Mario Balotelli in tandem with Stephan El Shaaraway for their second match together as a strike force.
Having just completed his move from Manchester City last weekend, Balotelli scored twice on his AC Milan debut, his second goal a 94th-minute winner in a 2-1 victory over Udinese.
Balotelli will have the chance to do it all again as Milan line up against lowly Cagliari, who still beat Roma 4-2 last weekend, on Sunday afternoon.
With 40 points, Milan will have plenty of motivation in this encounter as the fourth-placed side are just three points adrift of Lazio and a win for Allegri's team, combined with a Lazio loss, will see them climb to third and into the automatic Champions League qualification positions.
Fifth-placed Inter Milan are also on 40 points and could also climb into third when they play Chievo on Sunday, while Roma will have the chance to bounce back from their week from hell when they travel to Genoa to take on Sampdoria.
Roma's big loss to Cagliari last week saw coach Zdenek Zeman sacked following an emergency meeting of the Roma board.
But the capital club will have to beat Sampdoria without a recognised manager as backroom staff member Aurelio Andreazzoli takes over the reins ahead an approach to Laurent Blanc for next season.
In other matches, Bologna will look to climb further clear of the relegation zone when they host 19th-placed Siena while last-placed Palermo face off against Pescara (18th) in what is shaping as a clash that could go a long way towards deciding who is relegated.