Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio has brushed off suggestions of a crisis, insisting the champions’ resolve will remain intact when they visit in-form Napoli looking for their first win of the year on Sunday.
Juventus saw their lead over title challengers Roma reduced to a point on Tuesday when Mauro Icardi struck late for Inter to level Carlos Tevez’s fifth-minute opener in Turin. Roma will go top if they beat Lazio in the city derby on Sunday afternoon, heaping further pressure on a Juventus side that lost the Italian Super Cup final to Napoli in Doha in their last game of the year.
But having secured their qualification for the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League, Marchisio has put the situation into perspective.
“Maybe we could have handled certain games better, but speculation about physical or psychological problems is totally wide of the mark,” Marchisio told Sky Sport on Thursday.
“There are always peaks and troughs in a season but when you come up against teams like Napoli you can’t fail to get fired up for the game.”
Napoli welcome Massimiliano Allegri’s men looking to emulate Genoa, the only team so far this season to take all three points from Juventus following their 1-0 home win at the Luigi Ferraris stadium in October. But while Marchisio admits meeting Napoli at their formidable San Paolo stadium will be “difficult”, he added:
“They are a great side but we want to upset predictions and make sure we come away with the win.”
While several Italian sides, notably Inter, look to bolster their squads for the second half of the campaign, Roma have not been in a selling mood. Midfielder Kevin Strootman, who only recently returned from a long injury lay-off, had attracted the interest of Manchester United but has ruled out a possible move.
“I want to get back to playing regularly and return to my level. I’ve signed a five-year deal here and I’ve only played six or seven months,” Strootman said. “I want to help the squad, it’s important to me. I don’t want to talk about other clubs.”
Roma winger Adem Ljajic was stretchered off in Tuesday’s 1-0 win away to Udinese but is expected to be available, although Lazio could be missing several key players for the Stadio Olimpico clash. Bosnian midfielder Senad Lulic has been ruled out for six weeks with knee ligament damage and Lazio are still sweating on the fitness of Lorik Cana, who also underwent scans in midweek.
With Lazio in third place, nine points behind Roma, a derby win would shake up the title race considerably and add spice to the race for the third and final Champions League qualifying spot.
Napoli, in fourth, are only behind Lazio on goals difference but a further eight teams, including Inter, are between only three and eight points further adrift.
Inter host Genoa looking to build on their midweek draw in Turin, when World Cup winner Lukas Podolski made his debut coming off the substitutes’ bench in the second half. The 29-year-old was officially unveiled to the media on Thursday, days after completing his move on a six-month loan spell from Arsenal, and was quick to underline Inter’s Champions League qualification hopes.
“We want to cut the gap between us and the leading pack… we can still make third place,” said Podolski. “We’re eight points off it, but Inter is a prestigious club and must be playing in the Champions League.”
Podolski is expected to be joined at Inter by Bayern Munich forward Xherdan Shaqiri, who arrived in Milan on Thursday ahead of his expected signature on a season-long loan deal on Friday.
City rivals Milan travel to Torino for Saturday’s late game in the hope of closing their five-point gap to Lazio and Napoli.
Italian Serie A fixtures
Sassuolo v Udinese
Torino v Milan