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03 December 2023

Juve prepare for Atletico battle, Roma begin life without Di Francesco

Photo: AFP


Tensions are running high in Turin as Juventus get ready to take on lowly Udinese in Serie A on Friday, just days ahead of their must-win Champions League clash against Atletico Madrid as Roma begin life under a new coach after Eusebio Di Francesco's sacking.

Massimiliano Allegri's unbeaten champions put one hand on an eighth consecutive Serie A title last weekend by seeing off rivals Napoli 2-1 to open up a huge 16-point lead.

But the pressure is on the Juventus coach amid reports of a falling out with club president Andrea Agnelli after the club's first-leg 2-0 defeat in Spain two weeks ago.

"We have to win to prepare for the match on Tuesday, regardless of the advantage that we have (in the league)," Allegri said on Thursday.

"We still need six victories (to win the title).

"The Madrid match has left us with motivation that has helped us in these 15 days. We will be ready on Tuesday and we will have a great game."

The pressure has also been mounting on Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

The top scorer in the Champions League for the last six seasons, Ronaldo was signed for 100 million euros ($112 million) last summer from Real Madrid.

But the 34-year-old Portuguese superstar has scored just one goal in this year's competition as Juventus target a first European title since 1996.

Ronaldo has also failed to score in his last two league games since the Madrid defeat and has been joined at the top of the Serie A scorers chart by Sampdoria veteran Fabio Quagliarella, 36, who has also scored 19 goals.

Allegri confirmed that Ronaldo is available for Friday, but will be on the bench, so as to be fully primed for what promises to be an epic struggle against Atletico.

Defenders Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini will not play on Friday.

Udinese are 15th in Serie A but have moved away from the drop zone after winning their last two games against relegation candidates Chievo and Bologna.

"(The) match will be our Champions League," coach Davide Nicola warned. "No-one has managed to beat Juventus in the League this season.

"(Winning) would be a dream."

Ranieri set for Roma return

Roma, meanwhile, return to action after Di Francesco was sacked following their Champions League last-16 exit against Porto.

Former Roma coach Claudio Ranieri is reportedly poised to take over and his first game for the team since February 2011 would be against Empoli, who are four points above the drop zone, on Monday.

Roma are fifth, three points behind Inter Milan who occupy the final Champions League berth, after falling 3-0 to city rivals Lazio last weekend.

Napoli travel to mid-table Sassuolo on Sunday after last week's home defeat to Juventus seriously dented their title hopes.

Carlo Ancelotti's side however remain on on track in the Europa League with a 3-0 win over Salzburg in the last 16, first leg on Thursday.

AC Milan, a further eight points behind in third, travel to bottom club Chievo.

Gennaro Gattuso's side are a point above city rivals Inter, who lost at Cagliari last time out amid a public contract dispute with absent star striker Mauro Icardi.

There are reports of a thaw between the Argentina striker, who has been stripped of the captain's armband, and club bosses after a meeting this week.

But he missed their Europa League 0-0 draw at Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday, and remains uncertain for Sunday's game against SPAL.

Fixtures (all times GMT)


Juventus v Udinese (1930)


Parma v Genoa (1700), Chievo v AC Milan (1930)


Bologna v Cagliari (1130), Sampdoria v Atalanta, Frosinone v Torino, Inter Milan v SPAL (all 1400), Sassuolo v Napoli (1700), Fiorentina v Lazio (1930)


AS Roma v Empoli (1930)