Napoli face Champions League acid test at Juve

Napoli face Champions League acid test at Juve

Napoli face a crucial weekend in their fight for a Champions League place with Rafael Benitez`s men away to treble-chasing Juventus and rivals Lazio hosting Roma in the city derby.

Napoli, in fourth place three points off a Champions League place, visit a Juventus side still bubbling with joy after their 2-1 Italian Cup final victory over Lazio on Wednesday.

It was Juve`s first double since they last won the Cup in 1995 and kept the 31-time champions, who meet Barcelona in the final of the Champions League in Berlin on June 6, on course for their first treble.

Napoli would be forgiven for hoping Massimiliano Allegri rests several of his players for Saturday`s clash in Turin, but even that would not guarantee an advantage for the visitors.

Allegri rested five key players last week, and Juve still came away from the San Siro with a 2-1 win over Inter Milan which severely dented the home side`s slim hopes of qualifying for the Europa League.

Napoli, who squeezed a 3-2 win over already-relegated Cesena last time out, need to beat Juventus to have any chance of remaining in Champions League contention following a week of further disappointment.

A win for Benitez`s men would pull them level with Lazio ahead of the city derby on Monday when Roma will be looking for the win that would secure runner-up spot and automatic entry to the Champions League.

However it has been anything but a relaxing week for Benitez, who suffered heavy criticism for Napoli`s semi-final exit from the Europa League at the hands of Dnipro.

Benitez has been tipped to leave the club when his contract expires in June and has reportedly held talks with Real Madrid with a view to possibly succeeding Carlo Ancelotti.

Napoli, meanwhile, are dependent on Lazio whose coach Stefano Pioli is not in a charitable mood after losing their only chance for a trophy this season.

Lazio are fully focused on the city derby, and Pioli said: "You have to win finals, not lose them but I`m really proud of my squad and can`t fault any of them.

"Our road in the Cup is finished, but not in the league. Monday`s match is our most important game this season. With the help of our fans, we`re getting ready to play the match of our lives."

Although Roma`s credible bid for a first scudetto fizzled out last month, Rudi Garcia`s men are determined to secure their place in next season`s Champions League.

They hold a one-point lead on Lazio ahead of a derby that, last January, finished 2-2 after Roma captain Francesco Totti hit a second-half brace to cancel out goals from Stefano Mauri and Felipe Anderson.

Midfielder Daniele De Rossi has been known for losing his composure, but the Italy international has promised that would not be the case on Monday.

"Now, I`m better at handling tension. I`m more calm," De Rossi said earlier this week. 

"As you get closer to the game you feel the tension rise, but I`ve played a lot derbies and think I can handle it."

Sampdoria, Inter and Torino all face crucial away matches, respectively against Empoli, Genoa and AC Milan as they bid to clinch one of the league`s three Europa League spots.

But Genoa, who sit in sixth place two points ahead of Sampdoria, have already been ruled out of the competition after being denied a UEFA licence by the Italian authorities because their Luigi Ferraris stadium does not meet UEFA`s standards.

Sampdoria share the stadium but have registered Sassuolo`s Mapei Stadium as an alternative for European home games.

AC Milan`s 3-2 defeat to Sassuolo last weekend ended all hope of the seven-time European champions qualifying for Europe.
Fixtures (times GMT)


Juventus v Napoli (1600), Genoa v Inter (1845)


Empoli v Sampdoria (1030), Cesena v Cagliari, Chievo v Atalanta, Palermo v Fiorentina, Parma v Verona, Udinese v Sassuolo (all 1300), AC Milan v Torino (1845)


Lazio v Roma (1845)