Revitalised Vucinic gives Juve second wind
Mirko Vucinic has finally sprung into action to breathe new life into Juventus's bid for a domestic double just as it seemed to be grinding to a halt.
The Montenegro forward has scored three goals in his last four matches for Juve who renew one of Italy's fiercest rivalries when they host crisis club Inter Milan in Serie A on Sunday (1845 GMT).
Inter, where media speculation is rife about beleaguered coach Claudio Ranieri's future, appear easy pickings for second-placed Juve as they try to narrow AC Milan's four-point lead at the top of the table.
Vucinic has been a 15 million euro ($19.65 million) disappointment since leaving AS Roma in August, managing only three goals until the start of this month.
A player with a reputation for inconsistency, he has repeatedly frustrated teammates and supporters with his tendency to go it alone instead of passing to better-placed colleagues.
However, Vucinic came to life at the start of this month with a superbly-taken goal at Bologna which gave Juve a 1-1 draw and spared them their first defeat of the season.
Having then missed out in a 0-0 draw against Genoa, his exquisite curling shot opened the way for Sunday's 5-0 rout of Fiorentina and on Tuesday he scored the extra-time goal against Milan which took Juve to the Italian Cup final in thrilling style.
"I was playing well before but the goals didn't come," he said echoing the words of coach Antonio Conte.
"Now I'm scoring with continuity but this isn't the main aspect. The most important thing is the team achieve positive results," Vucinic told the club's website (www.juventus.com).
Midfielder Wesley Sneijder is doubtful for Inter although Colombian midfielder Fredy Guarin, hampered by a calf injury, may finally make his debut following his January loan move from Porto.
Inter's season has disintegrated in the last two months with the 2009-10 treble winners dropping to seventh place and being knocked out of the Champions League by Olympique Marseille.
Ranieri denied reports out-of-form striker Diego Forlan had refused to go on as a substitute in last week's 0-0 draw with Atalanta, a match that president Massimo Moratti left at halftime.
With Inter seven points behind Lazio, who are third in the Champions League playoff spot, Ranieri looks almost certain to leave at the end of the season, if not before.
Although it has been a good week for Juve, they have still left themselves with a difficult task after drawing six out of seven Serie A games before the win at Fiorentina.
Having led the table with games in hand, they are now playing catch-up with Milan who host Roma on Saturday (1700) and at the moment do not look like dropping many points.
Despite being hit by injuries, Massimiliano Allegri's team have won their last three games without conceding a goal and with only 10 matches to play it is becoming difficult to imagine them squandering their lead.