(Reuters) – Massimiliano Allegri’s dream return to Juventus has become a nightmare this season and things could potentially get worse should the team slip to another Serie A defeat at Lazio on Saturday and fall further behind in the title race.
Juve looked to have turned things around after failing to win any of their opening four league matches for the first time in 60 years this term, as they sealed six successive victories in all competitions in the games that followed.
But back-to-back defeats by Sassuolo and Hellas Verona at the end of October undid all of their hard work. They needed a stoppage-time winner to defeat 10-man Fiorentina in the only league match since, as doubts linger over Allegri.
“The future is always the same, Juve was born to win,” Juve vice-president Pavel Nedved defiantly told reporters this week.
“We have tried to build the present and the future of the club. I think we’re at the starting phase to have the right mix to continue winning.”
Victory is a must on Saturday in the capital. Should results elsewhere also go against them, a third defeat from four league matches would see eighth-placed Juve trail pace-setters Napoli and AC Milan by 17 points by the end of the weekend.
Lazio boss and former Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri, the last Juve manager to win the Scudetto, will be more than happy to twist the knife deeper into the wounds in Turin. Lazio sit fifth, one point behind the top four.
Sunday’s blockbuster encounter sees unbeaten league leaders Napoli visit champions Inter Milan in a real test of the title credentials of Luciano Spalletti’s side.
Napoli have surprised everyone with their incredible start to the campaign, winning 10 and drawing two of their 12 Serie A matches to date.
Inter’s draw with city rivals Milan last time out leaves them seven points behind Napoli, but having worked so hard to win a first Scudetto in 11 years last season, they will be determined to keep pace with the leaders.
Milan, level on points with Napoli at the top of the table, face a tough trip to Fiorentina on Saturday, with their coach Stefano Pioli revealing a change he would like to see.
“I would like to communicate more with the players during games and would introduce timeouts in football like in basketball,” he told reporters.
Jose Mourinho’s AS Roma complete the weekend’s games when they visit Genoa on Sunday, looking to better a record of one win in their last seven in all competitions.
(Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Shrivathsa Sridhar)