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ITALIAN CUP

JUVENTUS

Juve focus on Cup final, not Barca: Marchisio

Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio insists the Turin giants are firmly focused on ending their 20-year wait to lift the Italian Cup as their Champions League final date with Barcelona looms.

Juve focus on Cup final, not Barca: Marchisio
Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio insists the Turin giants are firmly focused on ending their 20-year wait to lift the Italian Cup. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Juventus, who defended their league title a fortnight ago, remain in contention for a treble of trophies this season.

If successful, Juventus would emulate the feats of Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan in 2010

Juventus face Barcelona in Berlin on June 6th aiming to win Europe's premier club competition for just the third time, but Marchisio insists they are fully focused on winning their first 'Coppa Italia' since 1995.

“Our number one target at the moment is the Coppa Italia. After that we can start thinking about the Champions League,” said Marchisio.

Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri said last week: “Making the Champions League final is a great achievement, but we can't lose sight of a very important objective, the Coppa Italia, which Juventus hasn't won for 20 years.”

Marchisio, who scored from the penalty spot at the weekend as Juve came from behind to beat Inter Milan 2-1 at the San Siro, is one of two key players missing from Massimiliano Allegri's side for Wednesday's clash.

Alvaro Morata, the Spanish striker whose late leveller against Real Madrid proved decisive for Juve in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final, will also be missing due to suspension.

Otherwise, Allegri has a full squad at his disposal having rested a number of key regulars – including Gianluigi Buffon, Patrice Evra, Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Carlos Tevez — for Saturday's win at the San Siro.

However, Juventus are up against a Lazio team who have vastly improved since suffering a 3-0 league defeat at their shared home ground of the Stadio Olimpico at the end of November.

Stefano Pioli's men failed to get the better of Juve on their visit to Turin last month, losing 2-0, but they have been one of the strongest teams in the second half of the season and fought their way into contention for a place in next season's Champions League.

While Juve have lost three Cup finals since their 1995 win, losing in 2002 (Parma), 2004 (Lazio) and 2012 (Napoli), Lazio have made the most of their Cup final chances.

They go into their eighth final having triumphed in six of their seven previous attempts, notably winning four Cups since 2000.

With 12 league goals this season, evergreen German striker Miroslav Klose is Lazio's top scorer — Brazilian Felipe Anderson has struck 10 times – and believes Lazio can triumph if they win their individual duels.

“Juventus are a very strong side but I'm sure we can succeed and lift the trophy,” Klose told Calcio Norge.

“But we have to be aggressive in the individual duels.” Pioli admits Juve are “the best side in Italy” but warned: “We earned our place in the final.”

Admitting Juve could be inspired by their bid for a Treble, Pioli added:

“Clearly we need a flawless game. We'll be in Rome in front of our fans so we need to give it our best.”

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JUVENTUS

Five reasons why Juventus have won their eighth straight Serie A title

Italian giants Juventus claimed an eighth consecutive Serie A title on Saturday after a 2-1 win at home against Fiorentina.Here are five factors that helped the Turin giants lift a 35th Scudetto with five matches to spare, equalling the record for the earliest any team has won Serie A:

Five reasons why Juventus have won their eighth straight Serie A title
Photos: AFP

Ronaldo effect

Cristiano Ronaldo was signed from Real Madrid for 100 million euros ($112 million) before the start of the season, in a bid to end the Turin giants' 23-year wait for the Champions League trophy.

The 34-year-old left Real as their all-time top scorer, a record he also holds in the Champions League where he is the only player to have won five titles.

Despite their European exit to Ajax, the Portuguese superstar was a key player throughout the campaign with 19 league goals.

Both Juventus' Serie A defeats came in his absence — 2-0 to Genoa on March 17 and 2-1 to SPAL on April 13 — the latter frustrating their bid to wrap up the title with a record six games to spare.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner, who was defended by Juve last year after being accused of rape, was slow off the mark, having to wait until their fourth game against Sassuolo before scoring a double in a 2-1 win.

“Cristiano is the future of Juventus, he has had an extraordinary season,” said coach Massimiliano Allegri after the Champions League loss.

Rising star Kean

Teenage sensation Moise Kean burst through during Ronaldo's absence through injury, scoring six goals in the last seven matches for Juventus, having played just nine this season.

The 19-year-old, who provides an alternative to Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala up front, admitted: “I learn from Cristiano Ronaldo in training, I steal his secrets.”

Born in Italy to Ivorian parents, his first league appearance this season was just four minutes away against Fiorentina on December 1, with his first goals a double in a 4-1 win over Udinese on March 3.

Controversy overshadowed his only full match for the champions when he was subjected to racist abuse against Cagliari on April 2.

The youngster hit back by scoring in Sardinia and again in the following game against SPAL.

Bonucci back

Leonardo Bonucci returned to Turin after an unhappy season at AC Milan to recreate the so-called 'BBC' defensive partnership alongside veterans Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli.

The absence of the trio through injury was felt when Juventus conceded six goals in two games including a 3-3 draw with Parma on February 2 — days after being eliminated from the Coppa Italia.

“Mr Bonucci and Mr Chiellini could teach lessons at Harvard University about how to be a central defender,” said Manchester United coach Jose Mourinho.

Juventus have conceded only 23 goals in 33 games, the best record in the division.

Safe hands

Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny has proven to be a worthy successor to Juventus and Italy icon Gianluigi Buffon, who left for Paris Saint-Germain.

The ex-Arsenal player arrived in Turin in 2017 after falling down the pecking order at the Premier league club.

The 28-year-old got off to a stuttering start in the season opener, conceding two goals in a 3-2 win at Chievo, but has conceded only 15 goals in the 24 times he has played so far this season.

New arrival Mattia Perin, who joined from Genoa last summer, has proved less effective with eight conceded in nine games, and was between the posts for both their league defeats.

Winning ugly

Massimiliano Allegri doesn't mind winning ugly as he claimed his fifth league title in as many years with Juventus, and sixth in Serie A after leading AC Milan to their last title in 2011.

Allegri — who has now won 11 trophies with Juventus — has strenuously defended his team's often-criticised style of play, despite Juve leading the way in the Italian top flight with 67 goals scored.

“Beautiful football doesn't pay off, at the end of the day you've got to just kick it away from your goal,” the 51-year-old fumed after the draw with Parma.

“They need to realise there is no shame in hoofing the ball into the stands if needs be.”

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