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Roma refuse to throw in towel despite tricky trip to Florence Juventus edge closer to scudetto

MILAN, April 18, (AFP): Juventus will look to a possible slip-up by closest challengers Roma at Fiorentina as the Turin giants begin the countdown to claiming a third consecutive Serie A title. Roma’s faint hopes of a first scudetto since 2001 were kept in check on Monday when Juve restored their eight-point lead at the top with a comfortable 2-0 win away at Udinese. Antonio Conte’s Juve side would be forgiven for hoping Roma, who on Thursday failed in their bid to reduce a three-match ban handed down to top scorer Mattia Destro, concede defeat away at a Fiorentina side which still has a mathematical chance of challenging third-placed Napoli for the league’s final Champions League place.
Such a scenario would put Juve, who host Bologna, 11 points ahead with four games remaining, and allow the title party preparations to begin.
 

Roma coach Rudi Garcia, however, has refused to throw in the towel: “We’re playing in Florence and on paper it’s a difficult match, while Juve look like they have it easier. “But you never know ... just when it seems there can be no more surprises, that’s when they happen. As long as there is life, there is hope.”
Garcia’s comments on Wednesday came a day before the club’s appeal against Destro’s three-match ban was rejected. The 23-year-old striker had bagged a hat-trick during Roma’s 3-1 win at Cagliari on April 6 but, after escaping punishment for striking Cagliari defender Davide Astori from behind, fell victim to trial by television following a request by the disciplinary commission of the federation. Destro will now return to league action only in time for Juventus’s visit to Roma on May 9 for the penultimate match of their season — by which time the Turin giants could already have secured the title.

All of this weekend’s fixtures will be played on the Saturday of Easter weekend and with Juve and Roma all but certain of keeping the two automatic qualifying places for the Champions League, Napoli have two major concerns. One is keeping Fiorentina, fourth at nine points adrift, at bay while hoping Gonzalo Higuain, who sits third in the league scoring charts, two behind the 19-goal tally of Torino’s Ciro Immobile, recovers from a training ground knock. Higuain is one of two Argentinians vying for the top scorer award along with second placed Carlos Tevez of Juventus (18), but he is a doubt for Saturday’s visit to Udinese after he left training early on Thursday due to a left leg injury. The former Real Madrid striker is set to undergo tests on Friday, a day ahead of a potentially tricky away fixture.

Napoli’s last away match ended with a shock 1-0 defeat at Parma, while Udinese put up only scant resistance during a 2-0 capitulation at home to Juventus on Monday. The fight for Europa League places will have special significance this weekend with several candidates facing off against each other. Parma, Torino, Milan and Lazio are all between one and five points adrift of fifth-placed Inter. Inter are away to Parma, Lazio host Torino while AC Milan arguably have the pick up the bunch when they host a Livorno side whose battle to climb out of the drop zone continues. Livorno’s bid would be helped by snatching at least a share of the points against Clarence Seedorf’s Milan side, and by defeat for Bologna, who sit fourth from bottom, at Juventus. Yet given Milan’s recent resurgence from the depths of arguably their worst season of the modern era, that seems an unlikely scenario. Juve coach Conte, for one, says his side won’t be taking their foot off the pedal just yet. “We know Roma aren’t giving up and although we’re in front we have to have the same attitude.”

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