ALGHERO: Cool-headed midfielder Sami Khedira has called for focus as treble-chasing Juventus seek to wrap up a record Serie A title with a derby win over Torino.
A Juventus win on Saturday, coupled with a Roma defeat at Europa League-chasing AC Milan on Sunday, would take the champions’ lead over the capital side to 12 points with three games to play.
But securing a record sixth consecutive scudetto, says Khedira, is just one step on a road that he hopes will see Juventus claim an unprecedented club treble, seven years after Jose Mourinho achieved the feat with Inter Milan, in 2010.
The 32-times Italian champions face Lazio in the Italian Cup final next month and, after a 2-0 win over Monaco in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final, look to have one foot in the Cardiff final.
Germany midfielder Khedira, who sat Wednesday’s win due to suspension, insisted there is still plenty of work to do.
“The fans have a dream, which is the same as ours,” Khedira said Thursday. “But we are not dreamers, and if we want to go all the way we still have a lot of hard work ahead of us.
“The derby is a kind of match-point for us. If we win at home, even though Roma still have to play the next day, we will be closer to one of our objectives.
“Then we want to win the Italian Cup against Lazio, a great side that we’ve already beaten twice (this season) and who we want to beat again.”
After seeing Gonzalo Higuain hit a brace at the Stade Louis II, coach Massimiliano Allegri is set to make several changes for the visit of Torino.
Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who made a string of fine saves to thwart the French league leaders, could make way for number two Norberto Neto, with Allegri also likely to tinker with his four-man defence.
“We’ll be ready for the derby on Saturday,” Allegri said after Wednesday’s win. “I have a squad that permits me to make a few changes.”
Yet the 49-year-old coach is unlikely to change a potent attacking line featuring Higuain, Mario Mandzukic, Juan Cuadrado and Paulo Dybala.
Torino coach Sinisa Mihajlovic was in attendance to see Juventus triumph in Monaco, and Allegri added: “I don’t know what he thought. The derby is an important fixture, but it’s more important to us because it gives us the chances to edge even closer to the scudetto.”
Although the odds are stacked in favour of Juventus, who have beaten Torino three times in succession since a rare defeat at the end of the 2015 season, Torino fans can realistically dream of an upset.
Striker Andrea Belotti, a reported target for Manchester United and Chelsea, is battling Roma striker Edin Dzeko for the coveted ‘Capocanoniere’ top scorer’s award.
Both are tied at the top on 25 goals, with Mauro Icardi (Inter Milan) on 24 and Higuain still in contention, a year after triumphing thanks to a new Serie A record of 36 goals, on 23 so far this season.
Roma travel to the San Siro days after sporting director Monchi inadvertantly confirmed that club icon Francesco Totti, 40, would retire at the end of the season before taking up a management role.
It remains to be seen how the Giallorossi react on the pitch, but with Milan desperately needing a win to boost their Europa League qualifying hopes Luciano Spalletti’s visitors can ill afford to drop points.
Napoli, only one point behind in third place, will move into the league’s second automatic Champions League qualifying spot with a win at home to Cagliari on Saturday.
Napoli v Cagliari (1600), Juventus v Torino (1845)
Udinese v Atalanta (1030), Chievo v Palermo, Empoli v Bologna, Genoa v Inter Milan, Lazio v Sampdoria, Pescara v Crotone, Sassuolo v Fiorentina (all 1400), AC Milan v Roma (1845)