This weekend sees two sides with contrasting objectives go head to head as title chasing Juventus host a resurgent Chievo at the Stadio Olimpico.
With nine games still left to play, it would be foolish to assume the outcome of this crucial game could prove to be decisive in determining both sides fate, but defeat for either side may well have a significant impact at both ends of the table come the end of the campaign. Defeat for Juve could leave Inter 10 points clear at the summit, whilst a loss for the visitors could potentially reduce the gap between themselves and the bottom three to just three points.
Last weekend saw both sides continue their impressive league form with positive results. The Old Lady ensured they kept the heat on leaders Inter with a 4-1 demolition of free-falling Roma, with the help of brace from Vincenzo Iaquinta. Meanwhile, at the other end of the table, Chievo made it three wins in their last four with a slender 1-0 win over ten-man Palermo to take a step closer towards survival.
Despite seeing their bid for European glory ended with defeat against Chelsea, the Bianconeri have barely put a foot wrong in the league, scoring eight times in their last two games – despite the absence of injured top scorer Amauri. Claudio Ranieri’s side are now unbeaten since surprise back to back defeats against Udinese and Cagliari in January, although those two setbacks may well prove costly in their bid to pip Inter to the Scudetto.
If Chievo is to take anything away from their trip to Turin, they will need to end a torrid run against the Old Lady, which has seen them fail to record a single victory against the Bianconeri in their Serie A history. They have drawn once and lost nine of their previous 10 encounters, conceding 22 times in the process. The only time they have managed to avoid defeat was in the 2005/06 season, a season that ended with an impressive pre-calciopoli finish of seventh. The Flying Donkeys’ revival since the turn of the year has been nothing short of outstanding. A dismal run of one win in their 16 games building up to Christmas saw Chievo firmly embedded in the relegation zone. However, they have tasted defeat just once this year and back-to-back victories against Lazio and Palermo in recent weeks has lifted them out of the bottom three and six points clear of Torino.
With Amauri unlikely to recover in time to feature, Ranieri is likely to opt with the flourishing partnership of Vincenzo Iaquinta and Alessandro Del Piero – a formidable pairing that has produced 15 goals for the Old Lady this term, including a goal each in the reverse fixture earlier in the season. Iaquinta kept up his good run in front of goal, netting in the midweek draw against Republic Of Ireland for the Azzurri. His recent form for the Old Lady has catapulted him to the front of the pecking order for the national team, and Ranieri will certainly be hoping this will boost his club form even more.
Meanwhile Del Piero has continued to show his worth to the Old Lady with consistent performances and vital goals, despite being one of the oldest members of the current squad. A goal this weekend would take his tally to double figures for the third successive season and with forwards Amauri and David Trezeguet out, Ranieri will be praying that his star striker will continue to produce the goods at such a critical stage in the campaign. A late flourish from the Juve legend would certainly have the Nerazzurri glancing nervously over their shoulders
Ceo, whose last game away from the Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi resulted in a 3-0 rout of troubled Lazio, have an in-form striker of their own in Sergio Pellissier. The 29-year-old struggled at the start of the campaign but has rediscovered his goal-scoring form, netting three times in his last four matches to help his side climb the table. He will be looking to add to his total of six for the season with a goal against the Bianconeri. A win for Juve would at least ensure the seven-point gap between themselves and Inter could not be extended, with the two sides still to meet on April 18 in a crucial top-of-the-table clash at the Stadio Olimpico.
Meanwhile, it is the start of a tough end to the campaign for Chievo, who have the potential to influence matters at the top of the table, having still to face the likes of Milan, Inter and Roma as they bid to ensure their league status and avoid a swift return to Serie B.