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Serie A Weekend Preview

As Inter Milan chase a fourth straight title in Serie A, the focus has now centred on the battle for Champions League places with a weekend of intriguing fixtures on the agenda in Italy.

Jose Mourinho is on the verge of winning a domestic crown in a third country after Portugal and England as Inter travel to lower table Napoli with a 10 point cushion over AC Milan and Juventus.

While AC Milan stepped into second courtesy of goal difference with a David Beckham-inspired 5-1 win over Torino in their last outing, Juventus have been tipped into turmoil with rumours swirling that coach Claudio Ranieri is once again “dead man walking” and on his way out.

The club were knocked out of the Italian Cup in midweek by Lazio 4-2 on aggregate as angry fans shouted “Get out, Get out” to the beleagured 57-year-old and some fans even spilled onto the pitch in order to vent their anger with the club’s shortcomings.

Juventus have also been ordered to play a match behind closed doors after sections of their home fans abused Inter Milan’s black player Mario Balotelli during the 1-1 draw last Saturday.

Mourinho, however, played down the scandal:

“It’s not racism. It’s just an ignorant way to vent their anger against an unpleasant opponent because he scored a goal,” said the outspoken Portuguese. “If I can speak up for Juve, what happened on Saturday wasn’t the first time. It’s happened in many stadiums and also in our own.” he added.

Ranieri was recently given the dreaded vote of confidence by club president Giovanni Cobolli but reports say Italy boss Marcello Lippi is being lined up to replace the former Valencia, Atletico Madrid and Chelsea handler.

“Nothing is true but the coach is always the last to know like a husband who has been betrayed by his wife,” said a philosophic Ranieri.

Only a victory away to basement dwellers Reggina will keep the wolves at bay, while Milan host a Palermo side who are three points behind AS Roma in the battle for sixth place and an automatic spot in next season’s UEFA Cup.

Genoa are currently fourth, but just two points ahead of Fiorentina as they dream of a first ever appearance in the Champions League, although both teams are coming off defeats last weekend against Lazio and Udinese respectively.

Genoa, who only returned to Seria A in 2007 and were on the brink of slipping into Serie C only four years ago, can keep their target within reach with a win at Bologna.

Bologna are fighting for their Serie A survival and a point behind Torino in a dogfight to avoid the drop.

Fiorentina meanwhile host Roma who are a further three points back in what promises to be an explosive encounter at the Stadio Artemio Franchi with just six matches left in the season.

Fixtures:

Saturday

Chievo v Udinese, Fiorentina v AS Roma

Sunday

Sampdoria v Cagliari, Napoli v Inter Milan, Reginna v Juventus, Lazio v Atalanta, Bologna v Genoa, Torino v Siena, AC Milan v Palermo, Lecce v Catania

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