PRE MATCH: JUVENTUS VS GENOA

Despite a morale-boosting win in midweek, third-placed Juventus cannot reasonably defend the Scudetto but must continue the hard-fought battle for a Champions League place against Genoa on Sunday.


Though the hosts have accepted that they will relinquish their crown after a nine-year spell of Serie A dominance, they remain just three points clear of Napoli and will seek maximum points against a Rossoblu side still to secure safety.


On Wednesday, Juventus defeated old foes Napoli 2-1 in their much-delayed clash at the Allianz Stadium, to climb into third place ahead of the weekend's action - just one point behind Milan in second.


Top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo fired the Bianconeri ahead against the Neapolitan side before Paulo Dybala marked his return from injury and subsequent off-field controversy with a superb curled finish.


Though the win may have relieved some of the mounting pressure on head coach Andrea Pirlo - after having previously picked up only a solitary point from games against struggling Benevento and subordinate city rivals Torino - outgoing champions Juve remain 12 points behind leaders Inter with nine games to go, and their prospects of claiming a 10th successive title have vanished into the distance.

Following the game - before which speculation circulated that he would be sacked if his team suffered a loss that would threaten their chances of a top-four finish - Pirlo made the rare admission that he has made several errors in his debut season in the dugout.


Having promised to learn from his mistakes, the former midfield maestro must now lead his men into an eminently winnable fixture against mid-table Genoa, who appears set for a relatively comfortable climax to a once-troubled campaign.


Ahead of the game, Juventus have won their last three league encounters with the Ligurian outfit and, in-home games against them, have lost just twice in 53 past meetings at the top level.


After Genoa ended a run of six games without a win when coming from behind to beat relegation-threatened Parma just before the international break, head coach Davide Ballardini declared the point subsequently secured from a 1-1 draw with ten-man Fiorentina last week of "extraordinary importance" for his side.


However, as well as their indiscipline - they have had more men sent off than any other side - among the established top seven in the Serie A standings, Juve has gained the fewest points against teams currently in the bottom half of the table.

Undoubtedly, that ongoing weakness against the also-rans has proved the difference between potentially fighting for the title and now scrapping it out for a top-four place.


Following his 10th strike of the season, former Roma forward Destro has now reached double figures with four different clubs in Serie A, having previously achieved the feat with Siena, Bologna, and the Giallorossi. His goals have helped Ballardini claw the club away from the foot of the table after a difficult start, but they must now face Juventus and Milan in successive fixtures, with survival still to be assured.


Only troubled Torino have drawn more Serie A matches than Genoa's 11 this season - in fact, they have shared the spoils in five of their last eight league games - but the Ligurians would gladly take another point from Sunday's challenging clash with Pirlo's side.







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