Print Edition - 2017-02-04 | Sports
New-look Juventus await resurgent Inter Milan
- Italian Serie A
Feb 4, 2017-
Fit-again Claudio Marchisio could be restricted to starting on the bench as Massimiliano Allegri’s new-look Juventus bid to stretch their 27-game unbeaten run at home against Inter Milan on Sunday.
Allegri has both midfielder Marchisio and key defender Andrea Barzagli back from injury lay-offs that have hampered their bid for a record sixth straight Serie A title. After conceding only two defeats in a tough two-month period, the Turin giants host Stefano Pioli’s resurgent Inter armed with a four-point lead on Roma in second, and a game in hand on their five closest pursuers. But although reportedly fit to start, Marchisio isn’t needed so desperately yet.
Juventus have run riot in the past three games, all wins, in which injuries to defenders forced Allegri to move away from his preferred 3-5-2 to a more offensive 4-2-3-1. And from the fans, there have been few grumbles. Despite Juve being outplayed during a 2-1 defeat at Fiorentina a fortnight ago, striker Gonzalo Higuain has hit the net six times in his past five league outings.
In the past three games the Argentine has benefited from the three-pronged support of Juan Cuadrado, Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic. And with niggling doubts on Marchisio, and Sami Khedira and Cuadrado offering flexibility in midfield, Allegri is expected to deploy roughly the same front line Sunday.
It looks ominous for Inter, who hope to secure their second successive win over the Turin giants following their 2-1 San Siro success last September. Inter last beat Juventus in Turin in November 2012, yet Pioli’s men are on an eight-match winning streak and exciting new Inter midfielder Roberto Gagliardini says Nerazzurri hopes of another exploit are high.
Napoli will leapfrog Roma—who host Fiorentina Tuesday in a fixture moved due to security concerns—into second place to sit three points behind Juventus with a win at Bologna in Saturday’s only fixture. Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri welcomes defender Kalidou Koulibaly back from the African Cup of Nations although the fans’ biggest cheer could be reserved for Polish striker Arkaduisz Milik, who has fully recovered from a cruciate knee ligament injury suffered last October.
Belgian midfielder Dries Mertens has deputised admirably well after being pushed up to replace Milik, taking his goals tally to 13 in the process, and is likely to start what should be an enticing fixture. Bologna vs Napoli traditionally produces fireworks, the sides claiming four wins apiece and playing to a 2-2 draw in their last nine meetings at the Dall’Ara stadium.
After dropping a “precious two points” in a disappointing draw with Palermo last weekend, Napoli midfielder Marek Hamsik said: “Not winning that game was a blow, but our focus has be right on the next game, against Bologna.”
Bologna v Napoli (0130 NST, Sunday)
Milan vs Sampdoria (1715 NST, Sunday)
Atalanta vs Cagliari (1945 NST, Sunday)
Chievo vs Udinese (1945 NST, Sunday)
Empoli vs Torino (1945 NST, Sunday)
Genoa vs Sassuolo (1945 NST, Sunday)
Pescara vs Lazio (1945 NST, Sunday)
Palermo v Crotone (2245 NST, Sunday)
Juventus v Inter (0130 NST, Monday)
Published: 04-02-2017 08:45