Serie A - Factbox: Title run-in

A look at the top of Serie A where Juventus are nine points ahead of second placed Napoli with eight matches to play.


Top Four Standings Played Points

1. Juventus 30 68

2. Napoli 30 59

3. AC Milan 30 57

4. Fiorentina 30 51

Last season's top four finish: 1. Juventus 84; 2. AC Milan 80; 3. Udinese 64; 4. Lazio 62

Remaining key fixtures: Juventus have already played their two games against Napoli, drawing the second match 1-1 away on March 1. Milan play all their nearest rivals in the next three matches as they visit Fiorentina on Sunday, host Napoli on April 14 and visit Juventus on April 21.


The hiring of coach of Antonio Conte, the opening of a sparkling new stadium and the signing of Andrea Pirlo at the start of last season have ushered in a new era for Juventus, finally allowing them to put the 2006 match-fixing scandal behind them.

The 28-times champions won Serie A unbeaten last season and have basically carried on where they left off this term.

The importance of the new arena cannot be underestimated.

Juventus used to play to sometimes sparse crowds at the vast but soulless Stadio delle Alpi and then shared the smaller, unatmospheric Stadio Olimpico with Torino.

The Juventus Stadium - built on the same site as the delle Alpi - has roughly half the capacity, a raucous atmosphere, is invariably full and creates an intimidating atmosphere with the crowd close to the pitch.

Juventus are the only club in Serie A to own their stadium, allowing them to generate extra income from non-football activities and putting them a step ahead of their rivals who generally play in dilapidated municipally-owned grounds.

Meanwhile, Conte, who led Siena out of Serie B before taking over at the club where he spent 13 years of his playing career, has been a revelation as a coach.

One of a new generation of Italian coaches who have shunned traditional catenaccio with something more positive, Conte's team play a modern high-tempo pressing game which their rivals have struggled to come to terms with.

His 3-5-2 formation has proved an unconditional success, giving Juventus both strength and varied options in attack.

The trio of Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci, backed by talismanic goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, have proved rock solid, conceding 19 goals in 30 games, 10 less than Napoli who have the second-best defensive record.

Deep-lying playmaker Pirlo has found a second wind at Juventus, producing some world class performances, while the versatile Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal has been almost as influential.

While Juventus cannot afford a world class striker, Conte's rotation policy of fielding any two from Fabio Quagliarella, Sebastian Giovinco, Mirko Vucinic and Alessandro Matri in attack has more than made up for that.

The goals have been evenly distributed with Quagliarella netting eight times and Giovinco, Vucinic and Matri seven each. The signing of fleet-footed teenager Paul Pogba from Manchester United this season has given Conte further options in midfield.

Second-placed Napoli have done exceptionally well but lack the strength-in-depth to finish the campaign on top and may be over dependent on the goals of striker Edinson Cavani, Serie A's leading scorer with 22 goals.

When the Uruguayan's goals briefly dried up in February, Napoli suffered a succession of draws and lost touch with Juventus.

AC Milan, champions in 2010/11, were always going to suffer after their firesale of top players in summer aimed at balancing the books.

They made a dreadful start and, despite recovering impressively following the sale of Alexandre Pato and the signing of Mario Balotelli, they appear to have left themselves too much to do.

Udinese were shattered by their Champions League playoff defeat by Braga and were never going to in contention after selling their top players for the second close season in a row.

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