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Juve nears home straight in title defence

29 March 2013-PA Sport

Closing in ... Mirko Vucinic and his Juve team-mates have every reason to smile (Getty)

The last leg of Juventus' Serie A title defence begins against the side that first threatened to ruin it as Inter Milan hosts the second Derby d'Italia of the season.

A 50th game without defeat seemed inevitable for league leader Juve back in November but a 3-1 home loss to Inter inspired a small crisis of confidence in Turin.

Antonio Conte's Bianconeri rallied, though, and the gap above second-placed Napoli now stands at nine points while Inter flounders in fifth - where it is 18 points shy of its opponent.

One man demanding a repeat performance at San Siro is Inter president Massimo Moratti, who told his club's official website: "That wouldn't be so bad at all!

"A few months down the line we came up against problems that weren't only down to our form or the way were were playing.

"Then we went through a bad spell and we paid for that. Now we hope this match against Juve can help us get back on track.

"It's important to get points whether it's against Juve or any other side. Now we're up against the best team in the league, but we won't change our own targets."

With every league game taking place on Holy Saturday, the Milan showpiece could well be overshadowed by events in Palermo, where Roma striker Francesco Totti is hoping to celebrate 20 years in red and gold with a positive result.

Totti made his Roma debut as a 16-year-old against Brescia in March 1993 and is targeting a contract renewal that will allow him enough time to overhaul Silvio Piola's all-time scoring record of 274 goals in Serie A.

The 36-year-old Roman, who reached 226 against Parma, told the Gazzetta dello Sport: "Time has flown because I have done everything with passion."

His decision to stay in the capital for his entire career, despite interest from Real Madrid, has limited him to just one Serie A title and two Coppa Italia trophies.

"I could have won the Ballon d'Or in 2000," he added. "Had Italy gone on to win the European Championships I would have won it because I also won the Scudetto that year."

Palermo, meanwhile, is five points from safety at the bottom of the table alongside Pescara, who visits mid-table Parma.

Siena may never have a better opportunity to leave the relegation zone as it challenges 17th-placed Genoa in a six-pointer at the Marassi.

The Ligurians are just one point away, leading Siena boss Giuseppe Iachini to tell La Repubblica: "We are taking it one game at a time.

"There may be other teams who are masters of their own destiny but we cannot think that way. We just want to win, regardless of the head-to-head aspect of the game."

AC Milan's fight to dislodge Napoli from second continues against Chievo, who the Rossoneri have beaten 12 times in a row, while the southern outfit visits Torino for Saturday's late game.

Lazio hopes to fix a run of three straight defeats and re-enter the UEFA Champions League spots at home to fellow European hopeful Catania, with Udinese hot on the Sicilians' heels and looking for all three points against Bologna.

Elsewhere, Cagliari host Fiorentina behind closed doors at the Stadio Is Arenas as Atalanta bids to pull away from the bottom five with victory over 10th-placed Sampdoria.

Keeping the faith ... Roma coach Rudi Garcia (Getty)

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