MILAN, Sept 23 ― Juventus must “take command” of their opponents, thundered coach Massimiliano Allegri, as they look to warm up for a vital Champions League clash with a win at Palermo tomorrow.
Juve pounced on Napoli's shock scoreless draw at Genoa on Wednesday to go top of Serie A with a one-point lead on the southerners thanks to a 4-0 rout of Cagliari.
But defeat to Inter Milan at the San Siro last week left a bitter taste and the Old Lady is still looking for early season consistency.
Days after goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said he “didn't recognise” his team during their San Siro reverse, Allegri followed suit.
“Juventus has to start taking command of games,” Allegri said after midweek goals by Daniele Rugani, Gonzalo Higuain, Dani Alves and an own goal in Turin.
After a scoreless draw with Sevilla at home, Juve travel to Dinamo Zagreb under pressure to win if they are to maintain their status as one of the Champions League favourites.
Palermo fans are still celebrating a rare away win after Ilija Nestorovski's 89th minute winner secured the points at Atalanta on Wednesday.
But the Sicilian club's new coach, Roberto De Zerbi, seems to be under no illusions about Saturday's challenge.
“We can go out and challenge a lot of teams but we'll see if we've acquired the mentality to fight with big teams,” he said.
Allegri was unequivocal: “Our next game's at Palermo and we need the three points if we are to prepare well for Zagreb.”
Dropped Juve points in Sicily would not go amiss with Napoli.
But the Partenopei, who warm up for their Champions League clash at home to Benfica on Tuesday by welcoming Chievo to the San Paolo, have their own amends to make.
Marek Hamsik hit the crossbar in the opening half and although Napoli had two penalty claims waved away, only the lightning-quick reflexes of 'keeper Pepe Reina in the last five minutes prevented defeat to Genoa in midweek.
“For 85 minutes we dominated so I can't judge my players on the final five minutes,” said Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri.
Inter hit form
Chievo, surprisingly, sit only two points off the lead after winning three of their five games so far including a 2-1 defeat of Sassuolo in midweek.
“They're a tough side,” said Sassuolo's French striker Gregoire Defrel, who hit the visitors' only goal of the game.
But ahead of their trip to Napoli, Chievo coach Rolando Maran is not getting carried away: “Looking at our position in the table is nice, but we know what kind of championship battle we face.”
Although Napoli were Juve's key challengers last season, the pundits in Italy have been tickled by Inter Milan's title credentials.
Frank De Boer's men followed their Juve victory by cruising to a 2-0 win at Empoli midweek thanks to a brace from Mauro Icardi, who is now top of the scoring charts with six goals in five games.
But for all of Icardi's goals, Inter fans can't wait to feast their eyes on new Brazilian striker Gabriel Barbosa, who could make his debut Sunday when Inter host Bologna looking to make it four wins in a row.
Known as “Gabriel”, or by his “Gabigol” nickname, the striker's move to Italy angered Barcelona because the La Liga giants believed they had signed a preferential deal with his former club Santos.
Gabriel said yesterday: “I had offers from England, Spain and an astronomical offer from China. But Inter was always my first choice.”
England 'keeper Joe Hart faces his first big test in Serie A as Roma, 4-0 winners over Crotone midweek when Edin Dzeko hit a brace, travel to Torino.
Fixtures (times GMT)
Palermo v Juventus (1600), Napoli v Chievo (1845)
Torino v Roma (1030), Genoa v Pescara, Inter Milan v Bologna, Lazio v Empoli, Sassuolo v Udinese (all 1300), Fiorentina v AC Milan
Crotone v Atalanta (1700), Cagliari v Sampdoria (1900) ― AFP