Sat, Feb 09, 2013 - Page 18 News List

SERIE A: Matri confident Juve can beat ‘Viola’

AFP, MILAN, Italy

Alessandro Matri of Juventus, front, scores against Udinese in their Serie A match at Juventus Stadium in Turin, Italy, on Jan. 19.

Photo: EPA

Juventus striker Alessandro Matri is confident the leaders can see off the challenge of an impressive ACF Fiorentina side to extend their lead over SSC Napoli this weekend.

The Viola held Juventus to a goalless draw in Florence at the end of September last year and Matri told the club’s Web site: “We’ll prepare for Fiorentina by looking back at our first meeting this season, in which they did very well and gave us some trouble.”

“They’re enjoying a great league campaign, but we’ll be meticulous in preparing for this game and then relax in the lead-up to the match,” he said.

Already considered title favorites, Juve’s claim on the scudetto has been kept in check by the goalscoring feats of Napoli’s Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani.

Napoli are on an unbeaten run of six games during which Cavani, recently linked with cash-rich Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, has taken his league-topping goals tally to 18.

In normal circumstances, SS Lazio would hope for at least a share of the points at home to Walter Mazzarri’s side.

However, Napoli have been on fire recently, while Lazio are winless in their past three Serie A outings, including suffering humiliating defeats to Genoa (3-2) and AC Chievo Verona (0-1).

Lazio, who face Borussia Moenchengladbach in the Europa League round-of-32 in midweek, have also lost German veteran striker Miroslav Klose for two months due to a thigh injury.

They have since brought in Louis Saha, but Lazio’s Bosnian coach Vladimir Petkovic insisted the Frenchman, released by Sunderland last month, is no replacement for Klose.

“The club decided on this deal to help boost our ambitions this season, it’s an addition that will give us a competitive edge,” Petkovic said. “Saha has not come in as a replacement for Klose. He will return in a while and when he does it will give us further opportunities on the pitch.”

Matri, who could see his limited playing time at Juve tested by the recent arrival of French striker Nicolas Anelka, believes Napoli will be Juve’s biggest challengers for the league title they won for a record 28th time last year.

“Lazio are also doing well, but Napoli have been playing together for a longer period of time and they’re currently our main rivals,” he said.

With 15 games remaining, the bid to secure a money-spinning place in Europe next season — with the UEFA Champions League the principal objective — is set to intensify.

While Juve, Napoli and Lazio are already in pole position, Inter host Chievo tomorrow knowing another setback would hinder their chances of securing a place at Europe’s top table for the second consecutive season.

Just over six weeks ago they were among the top three as city rivals AC Milan fought to turn around their worst ever start to a Serie A campaign. Now, Inter are without a win in their past four league games, have dropped to fifth, 12 points off the leaders, and have seen Milan climb above them.

Earlier this season, Inter’s young coach Andrea Stramaccioni, 36, was being compared to Jose Mourinho. Now, he is in the middle of a mini crisis and is still missing Argentine striker Diego Milito through injury.

Inter president Massimo Moratti said last week: “Is my faith back with Stramaccioni? Of course it is, but we have to be wary of the teams that are creeping up on us.”

Milan, meanwhile, jumped up to fourth last week when a Mario Balotelli brace secured a 2-1 win at home to Udinese and they face Cagliari away at the neutral venue of Torino’s Stadio Olimpico.

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