BSP-03 Juve face Lazio test before crunch Champions League game

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BSP-03

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Juve face Lazio test before crunch Champions League game

MILAN, March 5, 2021 (BSS/AFP) – Juventus host Lazio on Saturday looking to
keep touch with Serie A leaders Inter Milan before next week’s crunch
Champions league game against Porto.

Andrea Pirlo’s side are third, with a game in hand, 10 points behind Inter
who host Atalanta on Monday in a clash of the two highest-scoring teams in
Serie A.

AC Milan are second, six points adrift of Inter and four points ahead of
Juventus after a last-gasp 1-1 draw against Udinese midweek.

The pressure is on Pirlo’s injury-hit Juventus to claim a 10th consecutive
Serie A title.

The Turin giants are also trailing Portuguese side Porto 2-1 going into the
second leg of the last 16 tie in Turin next week with success a priority in
the elite European competition they last won 25 years ago.

“We’re trying to get players back from injury, but nothing is certain,”
said Pirlo after a comfortable 3-0 win over promoted Spezia on Tuesday.

Forward Paulo Dybala remains out injured with Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio
Chiellini, Juan Cuadrado and Arthur sidelined this week, while Matthijs de
Ligt pulled up before the win over Spezia.

Pirlo will also be without young left-back Gianluca Frabotta, to a one-
match ban, with midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur testing positive for
coronavirus.

Juventus have won each of their last six home games in Serie A, keeping a
clean sheet in their last four.

But Lazio, who held Juve 1-1 in the reverse fixture, will be fresher after
Torino failed to travel to Rome for this week’s game because of a coronavirus
outbreak in the northern club.

Torino have not played their last two games, against Sassuolo and Lazio,
because of the virus with a scheduled trip to relegation rivals Crotone on
Sunday.

Milan coach Stefano Pioli also has injury concerns before his side travel
east to Hellas Verona but is determined not to lose further ground on Inter.

“I’m worried about the injuries because this is a decisive moment of the
season,” said Pioli with star forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic also out.

Eighth-placed Verona are pushing for European football next season and have
held Juventus and beaten Napoli in recent weeks.

The pressure is on Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso after an erratic run of
form.

Gattuso’s side are sixth, five points adrift of Atalanta who occupy the
final Champions League berth.

The southerners host Bologna needing the points before next week’s trip to
AC Milan followed by a clash with direct rivals Roma, who are at home this
weekend against Genoa.

Fiorentina, in 14th, host second-from-bottom Parma with forward Franck
Ribery suspended for one match. One to watch: Franck Kessie

Midfielder Kessie is having the best season of his career as Milan push for
a first league title since 2011.

Kessie has scored 10 goals in all competitions including nine from the
penalty spot, and his first Europa League goal.

“Yes, I score a lot of goals from penalties, but it’s not easy to score
penalties,” said the 24-year-old Ivorian, who stepped up after Ibrahimovic’s
misses from the spot this campaign. Key stats:

62 – Inter’s goals in 25 league games

60 – Atalanta’s goals this season, including 11 in the last three games

20 – Cristiano Ronaldo’s Serie A-leading league goal tally for Juventus

14 – Ciro Immobile’s league goals this season for Lazio

6 – Points between Juventus and Lazio Fixtures (all times GMT):

Saturday

Spezia v Benevento (1400), Udinese v Sassuolo (1700), Juventus v Lazio
(1945)

Sunday

AS Roma v Genoa (1130), Crotone v Torino, Fiorentina v Parma, Hellas Verona
v AC Milan, (all 1400), Sampdoria v Cagliari (1700), Napoli v Bologna (1945)

Monday

Inter Milan v Atalanta (1945)

BSS/AFP/GMR/0931 hrs