Champions Juventus tackle city rivals Torino with pride at stake as Italy’s top teams return to the home comforts of Serie A this weekend licking their wounds after a bruising week in Europe.
Juventus travel cross-town to the Stadio Olimpico looking to maintain their eight-point advantage at the top of Serie A after their year-long unbeaten record away from home ended with a shock 2-1 Champions League defeat by Young Boys in Bern.
Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates’ pride took a knock in Switzerland but the defeat was ultimately painless as Juventus still won their group ahead of Manchester United who lost 2-1 in Valencia.
Both Napoli and Inter Milan crashed out of the elite European competition as Roma — already through to the knock-out rounds — fell 2-1 at Viktoria Plzen.
AC Milan were eliminated from the Europa League with a 3-1 loss to Greek club Olympiakos, as Lazio were beaten 2-1 by Germany’s Eintracht Frankfurt, but still advanced to the last 32.
All want to get back on track in the first of four games in the run-up to the end of the year.
“I’ve realised that there are two games Juventus refuse to lose — against Inter Milan and Torino,” said Ronaldo.
The 33-year-old tasted victory in his first ‘Derby d’Italia’ against Inter last weekend with Mario Mandzukic scoring the only goal.
And next up is the ‘Derby della Mole’ against Torino which Juventus have not lost since April 2015.
“A derby is always beautiful and we have to win,” warned the former five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
Captain Giorgio Chiellini was rested this week in preparation for Torino, who are sixth, but just four points off the Champions League places.
Walter Mazzarri’s side held AC Milan to a goalless draw at the San Siro last weekend.
“Torino have improved a lot,” said Chiellini, “they can aim for Europe and they can certainly cause us problems.”
Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli head for Sardinia to play Cagliari after a dramatic 1-0 defeat at Liverpool.
“Going out like this hurts, but we have to pick ourselves up and focus on the trip to Cagliari,” said captain Marek Hamsik whose side visit Inter Milan on Boxing Day.
Both Inter Milan and Roma have struggled in recent weeks.
Luciano Spalletti’s Inter had been on a seven-match winning streak at the start of November.
But four points in as many games has seen Inter drop 14 points behind Juventus.
And they crashed out of the Champions League after being held 1-1 at home by PSV Eindhoven.
Goalkeeper Samir Handanovic warned that a victory at home, even against relegation-threatened Udinese, would give the club a boost.
“Winning is the best medicine in situations like this,” said the Slovenian goalkeeper.
“We need to find that spark again.”
The team have been hit by the absence of Belgian ace Radja Nainggolan with an ankle injury, with fellow midfielder Matias Vecino also sidelined in recent games.
Spalletti’s future is also in doubt with the appointment of former Juventus CEO Giuseppe Marotta as Inter’s new general manager on Thursday.
Marotta worked with former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte at Juventus, winning three Serie A titles together.
The pressure is also on Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco.
Nothing seems to be going right for the capital side, who are down in eighth and host Genoa before next week’s trip to Juventus.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Today: Inter Milan v Udinese (1700), Torino v Juventus (1930)
Tomorrow: SPAL v Chievo (1130), Fiorentina v Empoli, Frosinone v Sassuolo, Sampdoria v Parma (1400), Cagliari v Napoli (1700), Roma v Genoa (1930)
Monday: Atalanta v Lazio (1930)
Tuesday: Bologna v AC Milan (1930)
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