Juve focus back on scudetto, Milan dream of derby win
Juventus turn their focus back on securing a third consecutive Serie A title this weekend only days after a painful exit from the Europa League semis at the hands of Benfica.
Elsewhere, AC Milan host Inter in the city derby with Europa League places, and plenty of pride, at stake while Catania, Livorno, Bologna and Sassuolo continue their quest to beat the drop.
With a home final on the horizon, Juventus were on route for a dream double -- until a scoreless draw at home to 10-man Benfica on Thursday handed the Portuguese side, 2-1 winners in the first leg, their ticket to a second consecutive Europa League final, against Sevilla.
Juve's disappointment was palpable, with coach Antonio Conte lashing out: "The team that least deserves it is going to the final."
Somewhat reluctantly, he added: "Now we have to turn our attention to winning the title, which we can do against Atalanta."
Juventus host Atalanta in Turin on Monday, when Verona are away at Lazio in one of several matches this weekend that could help determine the league's Europa League representatives next season.
But Juve, who have an eight-point cushion on Roma, can clinch the title as early as Sunday if Rudi Garcia's side slip up at Catania.
Given Catania are propping up the table with five wins in 35 games so far, that scenario appears unlikely.
And Garcia seems intent on pushing Juve all the way -- especially after a recent war of words between the Frenchman and his Italian counterpart.
Garcia last week suggested smaller Serie A teams regularly bow down to Juve, prompting a fiery retort from Conte.
"I've heard it said that Roma are having a stratospheric season. If we are eight points ahead of them with a chance to make the Europa League final, then where does that leave us?" said Conte.
- Three in a row -
Juve's Europa dream is now over, but Conte said the Italians -- who would win a third consecutive crown for the first time since a five-season winning streak in 1931-1935 -- will emerge with pride.
"It's been a rollercoaster season, and very tiring too because we almost went all the way in Europe. We'll emerge with our heads held high," added Conte.
AC Milan sit a whopping 42 points off Juve's pace ahead of a league derby they have not won since April 2011, when current coach Clarence Seedorf was still wearing the red and black.
The seven-time European champions have been reduced to fighting for a Europa League place and desperately need to beat Inter on Sunday if they are to fight Torino, Lazio, Verona and Parma for a crucial sixth-place finish which, exceptionally, has offered an extra Europa League spot via the Italian Cup, the final of which is being played by Napoli and Fiorentina on Saturday.
Milan captain Riccardo Montolivo told Corriere della Sera: "Firstly, we have win this to restore some pride and try to make up for this season. If we do, it will boost our Europa League bid and give us some revenge for the derby earlier in the season.
"It's not just one game, this can help us get over an entire season which has been negative."
A fifth consecutive derby win in the league, meanwhile, would push Walter Mazzarri's side closer to a fifth-place finish and confirm their return to Europe, albeit in the continent's second-tier competition.
Fiorentina and Napoli are not in action until Tuesday when they respectively host Sassuolo and Cagliari.
A Napoli win, irrespective of Fiorentina's result in Florence, would secure third place and the final Champions League spot for Rafael Benitez's side. With a nine-point lead on sixth-placed Torino, Fiorentina have virtually secured their Europa League spot.
Only five points separate Catania from Livorno, Bologna and fourth-from-bottom Sassuolo meaning defeats for either side in their respective games against Roma, Udinese, Genoa and Juventus could prove costly.
Catania v Roma, Chievo v Torino, Genoa v Bologna, Parma v Sampdoria, Udinese v Livorno (all 1300 GMT), Milan v Inter (1845)Monday
Lazio v Verona (1700), Juventus v Atalanta (1900)
Fiorentina v Sassuolo (1700), Napoli v Cagliari (1900)