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Football | Italy

Andrea Pirlo © Reuters Images

Juve hope to win for absent stars



Juventus host Genoa hoping the possible absence of key players has the same effect as it did last week when the champions hit four past Udinese to open up a five-point gap at the top of Serie A.

Juve were without several key players, including midfielders Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio, last week but ran out 4-0 winners after French teenager Paul Pogba hit two superb goals.

With title rivals Napoli and Lazio both being held, Juve stretched their lead and are favourites to do so again against a Genoa side which has just replaced sacked coach Gigi Del Neri with Davide Ballardini.

Del Neri was axed late on Sunday as the north-west coast side returned to the relegation zone following a 2-0 home defeat to minnows Catania.

Juventus on Thursday confirmed the signing of Spain international striker Fernando Llorente, who will arrive at the club on July 1 on a free transfer from Athletic Bilbao.

"He's a great player and he'll strengthen our team but we shouldn't forget about our current strikers who are just as good," said Juve midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini.

Although Pirlo is set to watch from the sidelines, alongside injured striker Mirko Vucinic, midfielder Pogba is in scintillating form, meaning Ballardini could face a baptism of fire on what is his his second spell with Genoa.

Giaccherini, meanwhile, added: "I scored against them (Genoa) earlier in the season, but that's in the past. I am staying focused on the present and on Saturday's game. We have to win, and try to extend our lead at the top."

Last week's draw in Fiorentina was the first time Napoli had failed to take all three points in the league since mid-December.

Parma host Napoli without defender Cristian Zaccardo, who is now an AC Milan player after joining the Rossoneri in an exchange deal which took Djamel Mesbah the other way.

Napoli's Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani is the league's top scorer on 17 goals, but Parma midfielder Marco Marchionni warned: "When we face the big teams we always give a little more, and maybe we need this at this time."

Lazio's 1-1 draw with Juventus in the first leg semifinal of the Italian Cup in midweek was their second in a week after they were held 2-2 by Palermo last Sunday.

And although Vladimir Petkovic's title-chasers are unbeaten in their last 15 games, they will look to get back to winning ways in the likely absence of German striker Miroslav Klose.

Klose has missed Lazio's past two games and despite training on Thursday, he is expected to be rested for the Cup semifinal second leg next week.

Petkovic said: "We're doing well. That's 15 games without defeat. For what the lads have achieved, I have to say hats off. But we know we can do better."

Inter Milan, in fourth, still have a number of key forwards on the casualty list as they prepare to host Torino at the San Siro on Sunday.

Striker Antonio Cassano, who has been out for 10 days with a muscle strain, and midfielder Dejan Stankovic, sidelined all season with an Achilles injury, will be absent.

Doubts also remain over Argentine striker Diego Milito, who was left out for Inter's 1-1 draw with Roma midweek in the semifinal first leg of the Italian Cup.

Fiorentina, meanwhile, will look to avoid defeat at Catania, a scenario that would allow AC Milan to leapfrog them into fifth place in the event of victory at Atalanta.

Fixtures (times GMT)

Saturday

Lazio v Chievo (1600), Juventus v Genoa (1845)

Sunday

Bologna v Roma (1030), Atalanta v Milan, Cagliari v Palermo, Catania v Fiorentina, Parma v Napoli, Sampdoria v Pescara, Udinese v Siena (all 1300), Inter v Torino (1845)

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