Posted on Apr 07
Antonio Conte (R), pictured here on January 15, has urged his Juventus players to keep up the intensity ahead of this weekend's clash with Palermo to avoid wasting their recent winning form.

Antonio Conte has urged his Juventus players to keep up the intensity ahead of this weekend's clash with Palermo to avoid wasting their recent winning form.

Juve were toiling recently when six draws in seven games saw them drop to four points behind Serie A leaders AC Milan.

But a 5-0 rout of 10-man Fiorentina set them back on the right track and Juve followed that up with crucial victories against Inter Milan and Napoli.

That latest success closed the gap to champions Milan to just two points, but Conte is aware that Juve's problems this season have not been with fellow giants.

Two wins against Inter, a win and a draw against both Milan and Napoli, a win away to Lazio and another at home to Udinese all show that Juve's form against their closest rivals is very good.

But it is against the minnows that they have consistently slipped up, as 14 draws in 30 games illustrates.

Home and away draws against strugglers Bologna, Genoa and Chievo, not to mention home draws against Cagliari and Siena, are the main reasons Conte's side are not top.

And the coach is adamant his team should not get carried away by their recent results and start thinking things will come easy.

"I'm afraid of relaxing now. We don't want anyone's intensity to drop," he said. "We still remember what happened against Chievo."

Twice this season Juve have played Chievo immediately after acquiring an impressive result against Milan, only to fail to sparkle and drop points.

However, club captain Alessandro Del Piero is expecting the defeats of Inter and Napoli to increase confidence in the camp.

"The two wins in such difficult matches, that came one after another, should give us a huge boost to continue on our path," he said.

Although they trail Milan, Juve did not have the distraction of a midweek Champions League match, while the rossoneri played away to Barcelona where their European campaign ended.

It means the leaders may be battling fatigue against Fiorentina on Saturday, although they are playing the league's most out-of-form team.

Three defeats and a draw in their last four games have seen Fiorentina slump to one place and five points off the relegation zone.

Coach Delio Rossi's job is also rumoured to be under threat.

Outside the battle for the title, there is an increasingly intriguing race for third place and the final Champions League berth.

A vital clash in that scrap sees fourth-placed Napoli travel to Lazio, one place and three points above their visitors.

Those two, Udinese, who host Parma, and Roma, who travel to Lecce, are all in the hunt for that third place while Inter Milan, who travel to Cagliari, could force themselves back into the mix if they put together a good run.

For Udinese coach Francesco Guidolin, it is an exciting period of the season.

"The race for third place is very open. The teams who are fighting for it, Lazio, Napoli, Inter and Roma, are important teams," said Guidolin.

"At the beginning of the season they will have been targeting a top three finish. We're with them and we feel proud, we're there and if we qualify for Europe, I'll hold a huge party."

Fixtures:

Saturday (1300GMT unless stated)

Atalanta v Siena, Cagliari v Inter Milan, Cesena v Bologna, Chievo v Catania, Lecce v Roma, AC Milan v Fiorentina, Novara v Genoa, Udinese v Parma, Palermo v Juventus (1630GMT), Lazio v Napoli (1900GMT)