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Under-strength Juve look to seize top spot

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22 Nov 2013 01:31:53

Under-strength Juve look to seize top spot

Under-strength Juventus expect to welcome defender Giorgio Chiellini back from injury ahead an away trip to Livorno that could hand the champions top spot, albeit momentarily, in Italy's Serie A.

Two consecutive draws by Roma in the leaders' last two outings have given Juventus, in second only one point behind, plenty of incentive ahead of the Bianconeri's trip to Tuscany.

Chiellini, who grew up in Livorno and made his professional debut with the side, had been sidelined with a muscle problem since before Juve's 3-0 rout of Napoli prior to the international break.

His return is being welcomed as Juve undergo a mini crisis in defence with Angelo Ogbonna and Leonardo Bonucci both suspended and Andrea Barzagli likely to be sidelined due to a muscle problem.

Chiellini could be called upon to move from his regular left-back position to the centre of a back three, but the 29-year-old said: "It doesn't make any difference to me. I'm fit and I'm ready to play."

Juventus are still without Swiss wing-back Stephan Lichsteiner due to injury and lost Chilean Mauricio Isla on Thursday due to a knee ligament problem.

Roma, whose record streak of 10 opening wins in Serie A came to an end three weeks ago, are in action late on Sunday and, on paper, are tipped to get back to winning ways at home to struggling Cagliari.

French international Anthony Reveillere, meanwhile, could make his debut for Napoli when they look to close the gap later Saturday.

Reveillere signed for Napoli recently after his contract with French side Lyon expired, leaving him a free agent.

Having worked under Napoli coach Rafael Benitez during a brief spell at Valencia in 2003, the 34-year-old defender is champing at the bit.

"I am at a club which is among the elite in Italy and regularly plays Champions League football," said Reveillere.

"I had other offers on the table but when the call came from Napoli I couldn't turn it down. It's also because of Benitez, he loves to work on the tactical side of the game and we had a good working relationship at Valencia."

Under-fire AC Milan welcome Genoa to the San Siro in Saturday's other late game hoping to claim their first win since a 1-0 defeat of Udinese over a month ago.

Since then, Massimiliano Allegri's side have taken only two points from their past four games and now sit 15 points behind Napoli and the final Champions League qualifying place.

Fingers have been pointed at star striker Mario Balotelli but despite failing to score a league goal since Milan's 2-1 home defeat to Napoli two months ago, he was unrepentive.

"For the last four or five games I haven't scored and things are not going so well," said Balotelli, who last scored for Milan in a 1-1 Champions League draw at Ajax on October 1.

"But the goals will come sooner or later."

City rivals Inter Milan, who sit three points adrift of Napoli, travel to Bologna looking to avoid any slip-ups that could benefit Fiorentina, who sit one place and one point further adrift ahead of a tricky trip away to Udinese.

Struggling Sampdoria, meanwhile, hope to relaunch their season under new coach and former player Sinisa Mihajlovic, who takes charge in time to welcome another of his former clubs, Lazio, to Genoa.

"To the players I say, don't ask what the club can do for you, but what you can do for the club," Mihajlovic, who quit as Serbia coach on Wednesday, said at his official unveiling.

"I had the offer of a lengthy contract to coach Serbia but instead I chose a six-month deal at Sampdoria because the club helped me to become what I am today."

Fixtures (times GMT)

Saturday

Verona v Chievo (1700), Milan v Genoa, Napoli v Parma (1945)

Sunday

Livorno v Juventus, Sampdoria v Lazio, Sassuolo v Atalanta, Torino v Catania, Udinese v Fiorentina (all 1400), Bologna v Inter, Roma v Cagliari (both 1945)


AFP

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