Massimiliano Allegri set to rest stars as Borussia Dortmund test looms
Juventus visit Palermo on Saturday looking to reinforce their sizeable Serie A lead but with one eye firmly on booking their ticket for the Champions League quarter-finals.
A late strike by Paul Pogba secured a hard-fought victory for the Italian champions over Sassuolo last week and helped Juventus stretch their lead on Roma to 11 points as Rudi Garcia`s men remain stuck in a rut of consecutive draws.
With one hand seemingly on their fourth consecutive scudetto, the focus now for Massimiliano Allegri`s side is on reaching the last eight in Europe`s premier club competition.
Juve meet Borussia Dortmund at the BVB Stadion next week looking to build on their 2-1 first leg last 16 victory in Turin as they bid to reach the last eight for the first time in two years.
Although Palermo are a tough nut to crack at home -- their only defeat was a resounding 4-0 reverse to Lazio last September -- Allegri is expected to keep some legs fresh for Wednesday.
Argentinian striker Carlos Tevez has rarely been left on the bench but Fernando Llorente and Alvaro Morata are both in fine fettle and Frenchman Kingsley Coman is back in the frame after an injury knock last week.
Although Pogba will miss out through suspension, Juve`s defence has been given a boost by the return of Andrea Barzagli following an eight-month injury lay-off.
Barzagli made a cameo appearance in last week`s win over Sassuolo and is hoping to work his way back in time for the trip to Dortmund: "We have to be positive, there`s everything to play for and we`re going there (Dortmund) with a small advantage."
Last week`s stalemate at Chievo was Roma`s eighth draw in nine league games and Sampdoria, 2-0 winners over Cagliari last week when Samuel Eto`o hit his maiden goal for the club, will have no fear at the Stadio Olimpico.
The contrast at both clubs could not be any more stark.
Coachi Sinisa Mihajlovic is on a high having buried the hatchet with Eto`o after a difficult start to their rapport, while Garcia is trying to rebuild confidence amid his side`s remarkable dip in form.
"I don`t like to single anyone out but I`m happy with Eto`o because he`s on his way back," said Mihajlovic. "He`s been a great player and he`s someone who can always make a difference."
Garcia is under scrutiny, with fans now fearing being overtaken by city rivals Lazio as well as Napoli -- both of whom sit just four points adrift of Roma.
"It wouldn`t be hard for us to play better than we did last Sunday," Garcia said ironically on Wednesday, a day ahead of a 1-1 Europa League last 16 first leg draw at Fiorentina.
Lazio detractors claim their resurgence is down to their absence from European competition, but while a credible theory Stefano Pioli`s men are still playing arguably the best football in Serie A.
The Biancocelesti ripped an evidently fatigued Fiorentina apart in a 4-0 win last week that highlighted the threat of wide men Antonio Candreva and Felipe Anderson -- as well as Lazio`s aims for a second-place finish.
With the league`s second best attack (47 goals) and third-best defence (27), Lazio travel to Torino in confidence on Sunday hoping to hand the Granata their second setback of the week following Thursday`s 2-0 Europa League defeat at Zenit.
Napoli, without a league win in two games, should be brimming with confidence when they travel to Verona on Sunday days after a 3-1 Europa League win to Dynamo Moscow thanks to a Gonzalo Higuain hat-trick.
Inter Milan and city rivals AC Milan, meanwhile, continue their respective bids to close the gap to the European qualification places.
Inter host struggling Cesena three days after a 3-1 defeat to Europa League last 16 opponents Wolfsburg while Milan travel to Fiorentina looking for only their third away win of the season.
Fixtures (times GMT)
Palermo v Juventus (1700), Cagliari v Empoli (1945)
Atalanta v Udinese, Genoa v Chievo, Sassuolo v Parma (all 1400), Verona v Napoli (1700), Inter v Cesena (1945)
Fiorentina v AC Milan, Torino v Lazio (both 1800), Roma v Sampdoria (2000)