Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri is ready to put his feet up and celebrate a record-equalling fifth consecutive Serie A title “in front of the television” after a roller-coaster season for the Turin giants.
Juventus are “a small step away” from equalling their 1935 feat of winning five successive league titles after seeing long-time rivals Napoli slip to nine points adrift with four games remaining.
The Italian champions will win a fifth ‘scudetto’ if they beat Fiorentina away on Sunday and Napoli fail to beat Roma in the Italian capital on Monday.
It is a scenario that Allegri, who came close to an early exit from the club last autumn before the Serie A giants turned the corner, would readily accept — although he said Fiorentina will be no pushover.
“Our heads were under the water and we didn’t drown,” Allegri said, referring to their early season troubles.
“Now, we’re a small step away from completing a historic journey, but in Florence we need to play well. Fiorentina are a strong team and have been big rivals of ours for years.
“But I wouldn’t say no to celebrating in front of the television.”
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Given Juve were only a handful of points above the relegation zone and virtually ruled out of contention last October, it is an impressive turnaround for the team that Allegri took over in the summer of 2014.
In his first season in charge, Allegri — sacked by AC Milan in January 2014 — led Juve to their first league and cup double in 20 years and their first Uefa Champions League final in 12 years, only to succumb to Barcelona.
Despite exiting the competition at the quarter-finals this year following defeat to Bayern Munich, Juventus can still secure their second consecutive double as they face AC Milan in the Coppa Italia final on May 21.
They can stretch their unbeaten run to 25 games on Sunday, but face a Fiorentina side desperate to get back to winning ways after a shock defeat to Udinese in midweek.
“We’re all up for it,” Fiorentina coach Paulo Sousa said. “We have a chance, the team is in good shape and we have to go out and play as we know how to against a team that has been practically unbeatable.”
With Juventus virtually assured of the league title, Napoli and Roma are still engaged in a close fight for the second automatic Champions League place.
It could all come down to Monday’s clash at the Olimpico, where Gonzalo Higuain will make his long-awaited return for the visitors following a three-match suspension.
Higuain was handed a four-match ban for lashing out at the referee on the way to a 3-1 defeat at Udinese two weeks ago, an incident that torpedoed their scudetto hopes despite the sanction being reduced by one game on appeal.
Napoli trounced Bologna 6-0 on Tuesday, but Higuain would be advised to bring his scoring boots for what could be a decisive encounter.
Defeat in the capital would see Roma close to within two points of second place.
Roma finished third in Serie A last season but failed to qualify for Europe’s premier club competition after a 4-2 aggregate defeat to play-off opponents Athletic Bilbao.
Elsewhere, Inter Milan coach Roberto Mancini has called on his misfiring side to find the net for the visit of Udinese on Saturday.
A shock 1-0 defeat at Genoa on Wednesday virtually ended Inter’s hopes of Champions League football next season and Mancini said: “We need to improve in front of goal because with all the chances we create we need to be scoring more often.”
FIXTURES (all times UAE)
Inter Milan v Udinese (10.45pm)
Frosinone v Palermo (2.30pm)
Atalanta v Chievo, Bologna v Genoa (5pm)
Sampdoria v Lazio (5pm)
Torino v Sassuolo (5pm)
Fiorentina v Juventus (10.45pm)
Roma v Napoli (5pm)
Verona v AC Milan (7pm)
Carpi v Empoli (10.45pm)
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