Key Serie A Battles to Watch This Weekend
As we look ahead to Week 24 of Serie A, there are several key clashes as the race for the Scudetto and Champions League football intensifies. The weekend's action begins in Turin as Juventus host bitter rivals Fiorentina on Saturday evening, hoping to extend their lead at the top ahead of kick-off in Rome.
Just three points separate league leaders Juve from Napoli, who travel to the Stadio Olimpico to face third-placed Lazio in the pick of the weekend fixtures.
On Sunday, the race for that all-important Champions League spot continues, as a resurgent AC Milan will hope to continue their fine form when they take on Cagliari.
City rivals Inter Milan end the weekend when they entertain Chievo at San Siro, hoping to bounce back from what has been a difficult run of results.
Lazio vs. Napoli
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It's second against third on Saturday night, when Scudetto chasing Napoli travel to the Stadio Olimpico to face Lazio.
Five wins in their last six games have seen Napoli move to within three points of Juventus at the top, while they were also handed back the two points taken from them as a result of the latest match-fixing scandal.
Walter Mazzarri's side have shown a great solidity in recent weeks and are led by the goals of current Serie A top scorer Edinson Cavani.
Keen to learn from their mistakes last season, the Partenopei travel to Lazio not only looking to open up a nine point gap between themselves and third place, but with their sights firmly set on Juve.
In contrast, Lazio have fallen away after a positive start to the campaign. The Biancocelesti were dealt a huge blow in mid-week with news that Miroslav Klose would be ruled out for up to two months, but have drafted-in former Manchester United striker Louis Saha as a replacement.
Key man Hernanes is expected to return in time, as coach Vladimir Petkovic will be hoping his side can secure three valuable points as the chasing pack lie in wait of any more slip-ups.
Juventus vs. Fiorentina
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Bitter rivals Juventus and Fiorentina meet in Turin on Saturday, with the two clubs aiming for all three points and bragging rights.
Despite a recent stumble which has seen them pick up just two wins in their last five games, the Bianconeri remain three points clear at top of the table and the favourites to secure back-to-back league titles.
However, the last meeting between these two ended goalless in Florence, with Vincenzo Montella's side dominating for large periods of time, but ultimately unable to break through.
They have since gone on to struggle as they have dropped down to sixth in the table, four points adrift of a Champions League spot.
Injuries have played their part, but after a return to winning ways last weekend against Parma, and with Stevan Jovetic back on the score-sheet, the Viola will be hopeful of pulling off a shock against the Old Lady.
Cagliari vs. Milan
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Boosted by the arrival of Mario Balotelli, Milan made it eight wins in their last ten games after the former Manchester City striker scored a brace on his debut against Udinese last weekend.
Showing promising early signs of linking up with Stephan El Shaarawy and Mbaye Niang in an exciting attacking trident, "Super Mario" will hope to continue his goal-scoring start to life with the Rossoneri when they travel to Cagliari on Sunday.
Seemingly out of the race for a top-three finish earlier in the season amid their struggles of coping without the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, Milan have found their feet and are just three points adrift of Lazio.
History also favours them in this fixture, as they have won the last eight meetings with Cagliari, with the home side last taking points away from their opponents back in October 2008.
With Lazio facing Napoli, Massimiliano Allegri will be fully aware his side could have a chance of moving level with their rivals as their surge up the table continues.
Inter vs. Chievo
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After enjoying a great start to life as Inter coach, Andrea Stramaccioni is arguably under pressure to produce results as his side continue to struggle.
With just one victory in their last seven league games, Inter have fallen out of title contention and allowed the likes of Lazio and Milan to make ground in the race for third place.
While talk of a crisis is a little far-fetched, the Nerazzurri host Chievo on Sunday night hoping to finally put a torrid run of results behind them and get back to winning ways.
Their opponents are currently languishing in mid-table but put in a spirited performance in their defeat to Juventus last weekend; they will likely pose a threat.
Stramaccioni received the backing of president Massimo Moratti in mid-week, with the club patron stating that "he is a bright and intelligent coach," and stressing that things are being portrayed to be worse than they actually are by the media.
Despite his comments, he will be hoping for nothing less than three points on Sunday night.