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Juve seeking revenge in first of Viola match-ups

07 Mar 2014 01:31:56

Juve seeking revenge in first of Viola match-ups

Juventus host Fiorentina for the first of three matches between the sides in the next fortnight with revenge firmly on their minds as the scudetto battle with Roma enters a crucial phase.

Juventus will host La Viola twice in five days, the sides' first leg of a Europa League last-16 tie following Sunday's Serie A clash, before travelling to Florence for the second leg on March 20.

Antonio Conte's champions hold an 11-point lead on Roma, who have a game in hand, and boast the league's best strike force in Carlos Tevez (15 goals) and Fernando Llorente (11), who have scored 26 times between them.

Despite the favourable statistics, Llorente said the Bianconeri will be looking to their only defeat this season so far -- a 4-2 reverse to Fiorentina in October -- as inspiration in the first of their trilogy of fixtures.

"We're looking for revenge," said Llorente. "Fiorentina are the only side that have beaten us this season so we have to show that what happened there was a flash in the pan."

Juventus have been unbeaten since then but will be without midfielder Andrea Pirlo due to suspension although Conte can count on a central midfield boasting Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio.

Vidal suffered a scare in midweek when he came off early with a muscle problem while playing for Chile against Germany, but he is expected to start.

Juve's bid for a third consecutive scudetto, meanwhile, has been given a small boost by Napoli's virtual abdication from the title race.

Napoli host Roma in Sunday's late game but coach Rafael Benitez said their challenge is virtually over: "I'm not going to lie, it's gone."

During a round table interview with the Corriere del Mezzogiorno newspaper, the Spaniard added: "We have to keep going and look to secure second place. Beating Roma is crucial."

- Question mark over Balotelli -

Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman gave coach Rudi Garcia a scare in midweek when he hobbled off the Netherlands' friendly against France with a suspected knee injury.

However the Dutch international has been given the all clear and is set to start in Garcia's preferred 4-3-3 alongside Miralem Pjanic and Radja Nainggolan.

Roma, however, will be without Daniele De Rossi for the first of a three-match suspension handed down for punching Mauro Icardi in a hotly-contested encounter with Inter last week.

Inter claimed a share of the spoils after their 1-1 draw and with Parma only one point off the pace in sixth with a game in hand, Walter Mazzarri's men would welcome three points at home against Torino.

Defenders Walter Samuel and Juan Jesus are both serving suspensions meaning Hugo Campagnaro and Andrea Ranocchia step in.

Mazzarri is set to stick with the front pairing of Icardi and Rodrigo Palacio which has added punch to his attack of late.

City rivals Milan welcome Udinese looking to make up for last week's 2-0 reverse to Juve and with doubts hanging over striker Mario Balotelli for the second league fixture in a row.

Balotelli is recovering from a shoulder injury suffered in the 1-1 draw with Champions League last-16 opponents Atletico Madrid two weeks ago.

Balotelli on Thursday trained apart from the rest of his teammates, prompting suggestions he could feature on Sunday in a match Milan will be looking to win if their bid for a Europa League place is to succeed.

Coach Clarence Seedorf is expected to call Japanese international Keisuke Honda back into his starting line-up alongside fellow forwards Kaka and Adel Taarabt, with either Balotelli or Giampaolo Pazzini in the lone striker's role.

Saturday

Udinese v Milan (1700 GMT), Catania v Cagliari (1945)

Sunday

Juventus v Fiorentina (1130), Bologna v Sassuolo, Chievo v Geona, Inter v Torino, Lazio v Atalanta, Parma v Verona, Sampdoria v Livorno, Napoli v Roma (1945)


AFP

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