May 5, 2000
Rome, May 4: Having squandered what at one point looked like an unassailable nine-point lead at the top of the Serie A table, Juventus can no longer afford to make mistakes on the home stretch.
That would be a fitting outcome for a club that at this stage last year lost the championship to AC Milan after throwing away a similarly huge lead.
Only six weeks ago, a 29th-minute goal from Verona’s Domenico Morfeo appeared to quash Lazio’s championship aspirations by allowing Juve to build a robust nine-point advantage in the standings.
Verona, however, were to prove a fair judge in the title race. Last week, two goals from Fabrizio Cammarata downed Juve 2-0 and simultaneously resurrected the Romans’ ambitions.
After the Verona humiliation, which marked their third in six games, Juve are in a do-or-die situation.
If Lazio win at mid-table Bologna, a defeat against fourth-placed Parma would see Lazio on top. A draw would allow both sides to go level going into the final round.
If the two are also locked at the end of the season the title will be battled out in an intriguing play-off match for the first time since 1964. Goal difference is not taken into account in Italy.
Having started their season last July with the Inter Toto Cup, Juve’s final performances have shown signs of fatigue.
Coach Carlo Ancelotti, however, begs to differ. “I don’t think the team is tired. Against Verona we had a bad day, that’s all,” he said before sending a severe warning in Lazio’s direction.
“At Verona we gave their attack too much freedom, but Juventus never make the same mistake twice in a row,” he said.
Parma, however, will not be an easy catch for Alessandro del Piero and friends. Just like Verona, they have enjoyed a long streak without defeat. Unlike Verona, they are busy securing the points needed to gain a place in the Champion’s League.
With AC Milan two points ahead on 57 and Inter Milan level on 55, Parma want at least a draw on Sunday to hold on to a fourth place worth an entry into Europe’s most prestigious tournament.
More than 10,000 supporters are expected to follow Lazio’s outing in Bologna.
Bologna top-striker Beppe Signori is the real threat for Lazio. After a long spell with the Romans — with which he became Serie A’s top-scorer for three year’s in succession — Signori was sold to Bologna when Sven Goran Eriksson was appointed coach.
On Sunday, Signori will be wanting to show that Eriksson made a mistake.
In the battle for third and fourth place, AC Milan visit Roma while Inter host Fiorentina. Elsewhere, Piacenza host Cagliari, Reggina play Verona, Udinese host Perugia and Bari visit Venezia.
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