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Football | Italy

Juventus © Action Images

Juve look to tighten grip, Lazio host Roma



Fabio Quagliarella says champions Juventus will be fired up for the trip to newly-promoted Pescara on Sunday despite lining up for their third game in the space of a week.

Quagliarella is vying with several top Juve strikers for more playing time this season but came off the bench Wednesday to score the fourth goal in a 4-0 Champions League rout of Danish champions Nordsjaelland.

As well as boosting Juve's knockout phase chances, the win ended a nine-game streak of draws in Europe and made amends for a first defeat in 50 games after the Turin giants lost to Inter Milan last Saturday.

Quagliarella's chances of playing are slim as Juve are set to welcome back Montenegrin striker Mirko Vucinic following a short absence.

But Quagliarella told www.juventus.com: "Playing every three days means there's no time to look back, the defeat along with yesterday's (Wednesday) victory are now firmly behind us.

"We're all looking ahead to Pescara."

Inter's 3-1 win at Juventus reduced the Nerazzurri's deficit to Juventus to just one point.

Andrea Stramaccioni's side, however, face another Nerazzurri (black and blue) in Atalanta who showed last week, in a 2-1 win away to Sampdoria, that they can cause surprises.

That is not all 36-year-old Stramaccioni has to deal with, however.

Inter have nine players injured but were in good heart in the Europa League with a 3-1 win over Partizan Belgrade on Thursday night.

But the youngest coach in Serie A is keeping a mature head on his shoulders.

"Our heads aren't spinning after the win against the Bianconeri," Stramaccioni told www.inter.it.

"Obviously Saturday's victory gave us confidence... but we've only played 11 matches and all it takes is one or two bad results for us to find ourselves back where we were before."

The big match for football lovers on Sunday is between two teams unlikely to be involved in scudetto contention next May: Lazio and Roma.

Lazio host the derby at their shared ground of the Olympic Stadium but do so with perhaps more pressure than their city rivals.

Their strong start has frittered away in recent weeks, culminating in a 4-0 humiliation away to Catania last week. Coming a week after a 1-1 draw at home to Torino, Lazio now sit fifth with a nine-point deficit on Juve.

Coach Vladimir Petkovic last week won fans in the sport when he said the defeat was "my responsibility".

But a similar scoreline against Roma would likely reverse the trend.

Roma go into the derby on the back of a 4-1 thrashing of Palermo, a soothing result for the Giallorossi given their two previous matches ended in 3-2 defeats, to Parma and Udinese, despite having held an early lead.

Asked if Roma are favourites for Sunday, coach Zdenek Zeman's promptly put the pressure on Lazio.

"It's usually the opposite; the team that loses wants to make up for it in the derby," said the veteran Czech coach.

Embattled AC Milan meanwhile face yet another test of their character when they host a Fiorentina side which has climbed to fourth place thanks to amassing 13 points from a possible 15 in their last five matches.

While Milan sit in 10th place on 14 points, half that of leaders Juve, Fiorentina's last defeat was by 2-1 to Inter at the San Siro.

La Viola, however, will be without star striker Stevan Jovetic who faces at least 10 days out due to injury.

Fixtures

Saturday
Cagliari v Catania
Pescara v Juventus

Sunday
Palermo v Sampdoria
Chievo v Udinese
Genoa v Napoli
Lazio v Roma
AC Milan v Fiorentina
Parma v Siena
Torino v Bologna
Atalanta v Inter

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