juveJuventus could use a lingering bitterness at exiting the Champions League in their favour as they switch focus to chasing a record-equalling fifth consecutive title away to derby rivals Torino on Sunday.

Juventus, who lost last year’s final to Barcelona, were seconds away from sealing progress to the competition’s last eight in midweek before Thomas Mueller’s last-gasp leveller for Bayern Munich drove the last 16 decider into extra time.

In the second extra period, Bayern turned up the heat to emerge 4-2 winners on the night, shattering Juve’s Euro dream and quickly refocusing the Bianconeri’s sights on achieving another domestic double. 

Juventus make the short trip across Turin on Sunday unbeaten in 19 league games, boasting 10 consecutive clean sheets and with goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon only four minutes away from overtaking retired AC Milan keeper Sebastian Rossi’s 1994 unbeaten record of 929 minutes.

And with Napoli snapping at their heels, only three points in arrears, the champions have little time to mull over what might have been in Europe. 

A slip-up at Torino’s Stadio Olimpico would be a setback Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri can well do without.

“The league championship is very important to us and we have to quickly focus on the derby now,” Allegri said after Wednesday’s defeat.

“So, even though we’re feeling a little bit bitter, we have to refocus and get to work straight away.”

With nine games remaining this season, it’s crunch time for almost every team in the league, beginning Saturday when Roma host fellow Champions League chasers Inter Milan looking to make it nine wins on the trot. 

Thanks to their recent purple patch, third-placed Roma have a firm grip on the league’s last qualifying spot with a five-point lead on both Inter and Fiorentina.

A ninth consecutive victory would see Roma close to within two points of Napoli, while a win for Inter would see Roberto Mancini’s men close the gap on the Giallorossi to just two points as they look to seal their return to the Champions League for the first time since 2012.

With 15 goals from their past five home outings, it is little surprise Roma boast the best ‘home’ attack in the league — 35 goals from 14 games so far. 

For striker Edin Dzeko, who won the Premier League with Mancini when both were at Manchester City, the match could have an added significance.

The Bosnian, who celebrated his 30th birthday on Thursday, has found the net four times in Roma’s past five outings although Egyptian Mohamed Salah has gone one goal better in as many games.

Roma’s attacking threat, however, is set to be tested with the return to the fray of Inter central defensive pair Jeison Murillo and Joao Miranda, who have been formidable when playing together this campaign.

For former Roma and Inter keeper Angelo Peruzzi Saturday’s clash could “go either way”, but he believes defeat for Inter will end their Champions League hopes.

“The Stadio Olimpico will be a huge challenge for them on Saturday,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport on Thursday.

“If they lose, they can kiss goodbye to the Champions League. Roberto (Mancini) has a potentially strong side but they also lack experience.”

A Roma setback would be welcomed by Fiorentina, who are expected to account for relegation-threatened Frosinone, and AC Milan, who host Lazio in Sunday’s late game. 

Yet Milan’s hopes of ending their three-year wait for Champions League football were dented by a scoreless draw at Chievo last week that left them 11 points behind Roma. 

Sinisa Mihajlovic’s men are still without French striker M’Baye Niang, but should welcome teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma back to the fray after he suffered an eye socket injury last week. 

Fixtures (times GMT)


Empoli v Palermo (1700), Roma v Inter (1945)


Atalanta v Bologna (1130), Frosinone v Fiorentina, Verona v Carpi, Sampdoria v Chievo, Sassuolo v Udinese, Torino v Juventus (all 1400), Napoli v Genoa (1700), AC Milan v Lazio (1945)

Agence France-Presse

- Advertisement -