Serie A Key Battles to Watch This Weekend: Juve to Capture Title in Turin Derby?
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As all the midweek plaudits were duly showered on the free-flowing and hegemony-conquering football played by Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, attention now turns to how other powerhouses in Europe may step up their game in response.
With the season drawing to a close, club managers have the summer to take stock and think how they might stymie this new dawn, led by Arjen Robben, Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Mueller et al.
Over the Channel in France, Paris Saint-German still require two more victories before Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Co. get their hands on a league winner's medal.
Whilst in Italy, Juventus—who, in the last stage, also fell victim to the swashbuckling brand of football that Bayern exude so easily and relentlessly in the Champions League—can put European heartache behind them this weekend and potentially retain the Serie A league title.
It would be the 29th title in this history of La Vecchia Signora (not including the two rewarded to Inter Milan after the outcome of the Calciopolli match-fixing scandal) and it will probably rank up there as one of the most vintage.
With four games ending in 1-1 draws last weekend—and the rest being won by solitary one-goal margins—to see Juventus seize the league would be a welcome response to a dour previous installment.
Blending prodigious young talent with trusty, experienced heads, they have showed a gritty determination to put the early season misery of that unbeaten run coming to an end—one game shy of the half century—to hold off the challenge of Lazio and then Napoli.
Despite the ugly scenes of racism that marred their 1-0 win over AC Milan—diabolical behaviour which was met with a fine of almost $40,000—they enter this weekend's derby game against Torino with a"joie de vivre" to their step.
With the likes of Andrea Pirlo, who despite being 33 will seal only his fourth league title, two of which were obtained at AC Milan have, lining up alongside the 20-year-old Paul Pogba, who has done his bit with five goals in 25 appearances, this is a team that has the necessary foundations to achieve domestic dominance for years to come.
As neighbours Torino languish just two places and seven points above the relegation zone in 16th position—and only one win in their last five—it's fair to say Juventus are enjoying the city's kudos.
Promoted as runners-up in Serie B, their return to the top flight has been more of a struggle than anticipated. Frontman Rolando Bianchi has aided the team's cause with 10 goals in 29 appearances, but they now face the champions having recently lost to Fiorentina, Roma and Napoli.
Presuming Fiorentina finish fourth, who else will qualify for the Europa League via Serie A?
Elsewhere in Serie A, teams at the bottom scrapping for survival must do battle with their counterparts at the top who are edging into Europe.
First up, there's the basement boys Pescara, winless in 14, as they welcome second-placed Napoli, who are winless in five having drawn their last consecutive four games.
Juve's title win depends on Napoli dropping points against the team who are eight points from safety. Unlikely on the best of days, but when you take into consideration the fact that defeat for Pescara would all but consign them to drop —an 11 point chasm with four games left—they will be pushing the boys from Naples all the way.
As a caveat, with Edinson Cavani leading the scoring chart by five goals, he will be on a personal mission to make use of every game remaining and cement the personal accolade.
Fellow dropzone-dwellers Palermo have an entertaining home tie against Inter Milan, a team who are currently doing battle with four other teams for that last remaining Europa League spot.
As Antonio Cassano and Tommaso Rocchi attempt to lead a two-pronged Italian strikeforce, Inter are looking rocky: They have struggled for consistency under Andrea Stramaccioni and may still be gazumped in their quest for Europe.
Palermo, on the other hand, are looking resurgent. With only two losses in their last 10 games, the great escape is on. A win here and a loss for Siena (who travel to Roma), and Palermo will clamber out of the relegation zone at a pivotal time.
Saturday, 27 April (All times CET)
Pescara vs. Napoli, 20:45
Sunday, 28 April
Sampdoria vs. Fiorentina, 12:30
Chievo vs. Genoa, 15:00
Palermo vs. Internazionale, 15:00
Parma vs. Lazio, 15:00
Roma vs. Siena, 15:00
Milan vs. Catania, 20:45
Which game are you most excited about? Can Pescara pull off a big victory? Will results go Juve's way? Or will the champagne be put on ice for another week? Will Mario Balotelli make a scoring return this weekend? Let me know your thoughts—either in the comments section below or via Twitter.
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