Juventus have suffered so many trials and
tribulations since their 2006 match-fixing demotion that a few
nerves are understandable as they seek to clinch the Serie A
title in Sunday's penultimate game against Cagliari.
Victory and the scudetto could be theirs by the end of the
day. A draw or a defeat, though, would allow AC Milan the chance
to take over at the top if they beat city rivals Inter Milan in
a derby they are bound to be hyped for.
Luckily for Juventus, they will have played Cagliari on Sunday before the Milan derby kicks off, meaning the Turin club
know what they have to do without having the extra pressure of
seeing Milan overhaul their one-point lead before they play.
However, the mind plays tricks at the back end of the season
and Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was under no pressure when
he inexplicably and uncharacteristically lost control of the
ball in Wednesday's 1-1 home draw with third-bottom Lecce.
Andrea Bertolacci took advantage to slot into an empty net
for the equaliser five minutes from time as the Juventus Stadium
fell silent in shock and Lecce kept the survival hopes alive.
"Gigi made an error just like we made many further
forward," coach Antonio Conte told reporters.
"He's having a fantastic championship and has saved us on
"We've squandered a chance but we'll look ahead knowing that
it's still in our hands. Before the season began we would have
been delighted to be leading by a point, unbeaten and with a
Coppa Italia final to play as we go into the penultimate game."
Having finished seventh in the last two seasons when the
weight of expectation at Italy's best supported club was too
much for a side still recovering from 2006, Juve's achievements
are remarkable in Conte's first campaign in charge.
They are still on course to match Fabio Capello's 1991/92
Milan side who went the whole league season unbeaten and have
another reason to smile against Cagliari on Sunday.
The Sardinians have been forced to play their home games in
Trieste, 800 kilometres from Cagliari on the Italian mainland
because of safety problems at the intimidating Stadio Sant'Elia.
There will be more Juve fans at the less imposing Trieste
ground than Cagliari fans given they draw support from all over
Champions Milan beat Atalanta 2-0 at home on Wednesday to
cut Juve's lead to a point and meet an Inter side whose hopes of
snatching third spot and a Champions League qualifying berth
were hit by a midweek 3-1 loss at Parma.
Inter, three points behind third-placed Napoli, are
nominally the home team and the chance of reviving their push
for third by beating their city rivals and possibly denying them
a second successive title is mouth-watering for the Nerazzurri.
The problem is their fans probably hate Juve even more.
"There's a favour to be done this year for one or the
other," Inter president Massimo Moratti told reporters when
discussing Juve and Milan. "It's the same either way."
At the bottom, Novara and Cesena have already gone and Lecce
lie three points adrift but host a Fiorentina team on Saturday
who are not yet safe and are in chaos.
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Ljajic during Wednesday's 2-2 draw with Novara and team manager
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