MILAN (Reuters) – Juventus will have a first shot at clinching an eighth successive Serie A title at the weekend although they will need help from the only team to have beaten them in the league this season.
Second-placed Napoli’s shock defeat at Empoli on Wednesday has left the Turin side a massive 18 points clear, meaning it is time to get the calculators out almost two months before the end of the season.
In one of the most lop-sided championships in history, Juventus will clinch the title if they beat AC Milan at home on Saturday and then Napoli lose at home on Sunday to Genoa, who ended Juve’s hopes of an unbeaten league season three weeks ago.
That combination would leave Massimiliano Allegri’s side 21 points clear with seven games each to play and a better head-to-head record over Napoli.
They would also remain on course to break their own Serie A record of 102 points set in 2013-14, the last season before Antonio Conte left and was replaced by current coach Allegri.
Helped by the signing of five times World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo, Juventus have been utterly dominant this season, winning 26 of their 30 matches, drawing three and losing one.
They have the best attack and defence with 62 goals for and 19 conceded although they have been ruthless rather than sparkling.
Twelve of their wins have been by one-goal margins, nine by two goals and five by three goals and they have only once scored more than three goals in a league game.
There have been a handful of impressive comebacks and dramatic wins but mostly it has been a case of getting the job done as efficiently as possible and leaving enough energy for their main aim, which is winning the Champions League.
Ronaldo will miss the Milan game with a thigh injury and is doubtful for the Champions League quarter-final first leg away to Ajax Amsterdam on Wednesday.
However, Allegri said after the 2-0 win to Cagliari on Tuesday that their injury crisis was easing with Mario Mandzukic available and Leonardo Spinazzola, Douglas Costa and Paulo Dybala all close to returning.
The game will be a severe test for Gennaro Gattuso’s AC Milan who are fourth, the lowest of the Champions League slots, but have followed a run of five league wins in a row by taking only one point out of their last three matches.
“The strength that we’ve had for three or four months was missing,” said Gattuso after Tuesday’s 1-1 draw at home to lowly Udinese.
“We gave the feeling of fragility. We must remain calm. We know that we’re going through a tough spell and we must get out of it.”
Gattuso said his team were going through one of those phases where the ball feels heavier.
“When you win five matches but then face some difficulties, the ball starts to weigh heavily,” he said. “Things that happen that should be prevented and this is the moment we’re in.”
(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Toby Davis)