Juve seek first win of the year
Serie A leaders Juventus seek a first league win in 2013 when they welcome in-form Udinese on Saturday.
A 2-1 home defeat against 10-man Sampdoria and a 1-1 draw at Parma reopened a title race that the Bianconeri seemed set to dominate, allowing Lazio to cut their deficit from eight to three points.
Juve started the season in full gear, notching 28 of the 30 points available from the first 10 games, but then lost three times in their next 10 outings for a current tally of 45 points.
"Juve are not as brilliant as they were in the past (months), but they still have their weight," director general Giuseppe Marotta said.
Marotta noted that the champions did not do well either in January 2012. He mentioned the absences of Giorgio Chiellini, Simone Pepe and Qwadwo Asamoah, while Mirko Vucinic seeks top form and Claudio Marchisio is recovering from knee injury.
Like last year, the Bianconeri are still in the Italian Cup, facing two semifinals later this month against Lazio, but more fatigue will come from the Champions League knock-out stage beginning in February.
The next outing is far from easy against Udinese, who opened the year with a 3-0 hammering of Inter Milan and then beat Fiorentina 3-1.
The game at the Juventus Stadium will be the 500th for coach Francesco Guidolin, 57, who said to feel moved and proud about his achievement.
"Now, however, I think about Juve," he said. "They will be ferocious as they have always been in the past two years. They are the first of the pack and the favourites to the final success."
Lazio, on 42 points, won their last four games, for an unbeaten run of nine. They are away to Palermo on Saturday and their earlier kick-off could allow them to draw level on points with the Juve.
Also watching the Bianconeri's performance are Napoli, who have 40 points when they visit Fiorentina in the mid-day Sunday game. The Naples side on Thursday were hoping to have a two-point deduction lifted in an appeal trial.
AC Milan continue their pursuit of a European berth by hosting in-form Bologna in Sunday afternoon action which also includes Chievo v Parma, Genoa v Catania, Atalanta v Cagliari, Pescara v Torino and Siena v Sampdoria.
Roma and Inter also have European berths in their sights when they close the 21st round late Sunday.