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Juve look to pull ahead as Milan hit panic button

September 21, 2012
MILAN: Serie A champions Juventus will look to add to the domestic woes of their title challengers when they host Chievo hoping to extend their unbeaten streak to 43 matches on Saturday.

Although Juve are one of four teams to hold 100 percent records after three league games, their most likely title challengers – Inter Milan and AC Milan – are playing catch-up, and Milan are already in crisis mode.

Juventus overcame an 18th-minute opener by hosts Genoa last week by producing a second-half performance worthy of the scudetto champions to secure a deserved 3-1 win.

Anything less than three points against a Chievo side, which has suffered two defeats since an opening day win against Bologna, would be a major surprise.

A valiant Juve side fought back to level 2-2 away to Chelsea in the Champions League on Wednesday to remind Roberto Di Matteo’s defending champions they could be a force to be reckoned with.

It is widely-expected that Juventus will defend their Serie A title with relative ease this season, and some sections of the Italian media are already talking of a Champions League-Serie A double.

Goalkeeper and captain Gianluigi Buffon, who played in the 2003 Champions League final when Juventus finished runners-up for a fifth time in their history, was however quick to play down that speculation.

“It would be presumptuous to think about that midway through September,” Buffon said.

After their Stamford Bridge match Juventus could rest several top players for Chievo, with Chilean forward Arturo Vidal expected to be sidelined with a mninor ankle problem.

That could pave the way for Danish international striker Nicklas Bendtner to make his debut for the Turin side.

Ahead of the fourth round of matches Juventus sit top on nine points, ahead of Napoli and Lazio who also have nine.

Genoa-based Sampdoria have also won all three games but have only eight points having started the season with a one-point penalty for their role in the ‘Calcioscommesse’ illegal betting scandal.

Although Napoli and Lazio are showing some fine early season form, AC Milan’s worst start to the season in over 80 years — and continued doubts over coach Massimiliano Allegri — could dominate this weekend.

Since Milan finished league runners-up last season the spine has been ripped out of Allegri’s side, with a clutch of key players either being sold or retiring.

With only one win in three league games and having failed to win in three home appearances at the San Siro, including Tuesday’s scoreless draw against Anderlecht in the Champions League, Allegri’s time could soon be up.

The man who led Milan to a league and Super Cup double in 2011 has so far been given the backing of Milan chief-executive Adriano Galliani.

“The faith we have in Allegri won’t come to an end Sunday in Udine,” said Galliani.

While it is Inter’s time to host at the San Siro, with Siena visiting, on Saturday Milan’s away match at fourth-from-bottom Udinese could decide Allegri’s future — especially after Thursday’s drama.

A clash, which reportedly turned nasty, with former striker Filippo Inzaghi, who is now the club’s youth coach, has only will only serve to highlight existing tensions at the club.

But after claiming he had seen “improvements at an individual level” from his mis-firing side against Anderlecht in midweek, Allegri admitted that his team is missing the magic ingredient: goals.

“… if you don’t score, you don’t win and that’s something we have to improve on,” said Allegri.

In three games, Milan have scored only three goals – six fewer than Juventus, Napoli and Lazio.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Saturday: Parma v Fiorentina (1600), Juventus v Cheivo (1845)

Sunday: Sampdoria v Torino (1030), Atalanta v Palermo, Bologna v Pescara, Cagliari v Roma, Inter v Siena, Udinese v Milan, Catania v Napoli (all 1300), Lazio v Genoa (1845)

- AFP


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