Conte wary despite Juve's record title charge
24 March 2014, 17:35
Milan - Juventus host Europa League chasers Parma Wednesday in the first of two Serie A games this week that could see the champions move closer to a record-setting third consecutive scudetto.
Antonio Conte's side had Carlos Tevez's strike to thank for a fiery 1-0 win away to 10-man Catania on Sunday which restored the Bianconeri's 14-point lead on Roma.
But with Juve still in contention for this season's Europa League title -- they face Lyon over two quarter-final legs on April 3 and 10 -- and a difficult trip to Napoli on the horizon on Sunday, Conte remains on tenterhooks.
Juventus are aiming to become the first Italian side to win the scudetto with at least 100 points and although Roma are a distant 14 points off the pace with a game in hand, Conte is wary of how their endeavours in Europe could affect their scudetto push.
"We've taken another step forward, but compliments to Roma. They're having an incredible season," said Conte.
"Being in the Europa League means we will be playing every three days and Roma have shown they'll keep fighting until the end, so we have to remain vigilant."
With nine games remaining, Juve sit top on 78 points, 14 ahead of Roma and 20 ahead of Napoli, whose bid for the runners-up spot and the second automatic Champions League place suffered a setback in a 1-0 home defeat to Fiorentina.
Having pushed Juve all the way, Catania welcome Napoli on Wednesday hoping to reproduce a similar fighting spirit as they continue their fight to beat the drop. The Sicilians are rock bottom but only four points from the safety zone.
But Napoli, reduced to 10 men on Sunday when Faouzi Ghoulam was sent off on 37 minutes, will be desperate to get back to winning ways after defeat to Fiorentina left them six points behind Roma and only seven ahead of La Viola.- Ailing Milan at Fiorentina -
Coach Rafael Benitez remained defiant. "Even though we're now six points behind Roma, I still believe we can do well enough to challenge them," said Benitez.
Fiorentina, meanwhile, will host Milan brimming with optimism and confidence after what coach Vincenzo Montella hailed as "an extremely positive day for us".
But despite an overall positive performance which has restored La Viola's dream of a third-place finish and next season's Champions League, Fiorentina are likely to be without Mario Gomez after the German striker hobbled off with a sore left knee on Sunday.
Gomez only recently returned from injury but could be sidelined for several weeks, meaning he would also miss Sunday's trip to Sampdoria.
Ailing Milan will travel to Florence with the tag of underdogs despite showing signs of improvement in a 1-1 draw away to Lazio on Sunday when coach Clarence Seedorf left Mario Balotelli on the bench in place of Giampaolo Pazzini.
Balotelli did not appear until the 54th minute when he replaced Japanese international forward Keisuke Honda.
Amid what is one of Milan's worst seasons of the modern era, Seedorf admitted he is happy to forego a beautiful game for collecting as many points as possible. The Rossoneri have dropped to 12th, and are now 32 points behind Juventus and 11 off Parma who sit fifth in the first available Europa League spot.
"We always try to perform well but right now the priority is to be a solid and effective unit and to try to limit the scoring opportunities of our opponents," said Seedorf.
Roma kick off the midweek fixtures when they host Torino on Tuesday while Inter, whose Europa League qualifying hopes suffered a setback in a 2-1 home reverse to Atalanta on Sunday, host Udinese at the San Siro on Thursday.
Roma v Torino
Atalanta v Livorno, Cagliari v Verona, Catania v Napoli, Chievo v Bologna, Fiorentina v Milan, Genoa v Lazio, Juventus v Parma, Sassuolo v Sampdoria (all 1945)
Inter v Udinese
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