MILAN: Fresh from upstaging Manchester United at Old Trafford in midweek, Juventus resume their quest for an eighth consecutive Serie A title at strugglers Empoli on Saturday.
Cristiano Ronaldo may not have scored against his former employers but he played a pivotal role in Paulo Dybala’s winner as Juventus opened up a five-point lead over United at the top of their Champions League Group H.
Ronaldo did score in last week’s 1-1 stalemate against Genoa for the 33-year-old Portuguese’s 400th career goal in Europe’s top five leagues, making him the first player to reach that tally.
Turmoil of rape allegations appear not to be unsettling Ronaldo on the pitch, with last weekend’s goal his fifth since leaving Real Madrid for Turin.
Against Saturday’s hosts who are in relegation territory with defeats in five of their nine matches, Juve are aiming to regain the winning thread after Genoa ended their eight-game blemish-free run in the Italian championship.
“We were a little careless against Genoa and our movement wasn’t great. We have to kick on from this performance tonight and keep improving,” said Giorgio Chiellini at Old Trafford. With fellow central defender Leonardo Bonucci, he helped Juve to their third Champions League clean sheet.
The duo are a formidable force, with United boss Jose Mourinho noting: “Mr Bonucci, Mr Chiellini, they could go to Harvard to give some classes about how to be a central defender.”
Coach Massimiliano Allegri is likely to rotate his squad after Manchester but he will still be unable to call on Sami Khedira, Emre Can, and Mario Mandžukić.
Juve and Roma, who swept CSKA Moscow aside 3-0, were the two Italian winners in the Champions League this week – Napoli were held 2-2 at Paris Saint-Germain and Inter Milan lost 2-0 at Barcelona.
Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti was heading for a successful return to his former club until Ángel Di María grabbed an injury-time equaliser at the Parc des Princes.
Juve’s closest rivals, four points adrift, host Roma in potentially the game of the weekend.
Napoli’s Brazilian midfielder Allan was encouraged by the PSG showing.
“It’s a shame that we conceded at the end, but the performance was outstanding and we deserved the victory.”
Lorenzo Insigne got on the scoresheet but was forced to come off after the break.
“I went off after a blow to the chest, I was having trouble breathing, but everything’s fine now and the pain has gone,” he assured Napoli’s official website.
Inter are in third following their last gasp 1-0 win over AC Milan but they were unable to follow that positive performance in the Catalan capital.
“I’m not very happy with the match that we played because we could have done better, we could have played our game from the start,” reflected Inter captain Mauro Icardi.
Undone by Rafinha, who was on loan to them only five months ago, Inter will look to bounce back at Lazio on Monday.
AC Milan, who suffered a home Europa League loss to Real Betis on Thursday, welcome Sampdoria to the San Siro.
Elsewhere, Atalanta fired five in against Chievo last time out but will be hard pushed to replicate that performance against a Parma side that is likely to feature a fit-again Gervinho.
Bottom club Chievo, with -1 points after a penalty for false accounting, take their search for a first win of the season to Cagliari.