Milan (AFP) – The prospect of Massimiliano Allegri following Chelsea manager Antonio Conte to the Premier League appear on the increase as Juventus travel to Cagliari on Sunday looking to tighten their grip on Serie A.
Conte led the Turin giants to three consecutive league titles before Allegri took over the helm when former Juventus midfielder Conte took charge of Italy for Euro 2016.
Juventus hold a seven-point lead on title rivals Roma with Napoli in third at nine points adrift and Allegri is well on his way to securing a record-setting sixth consecutive scudetto.
But already, rumours are swirling.
Allegri confirmed weeks ago he is learning English and when asked specifically about reported interest from Premier League clubs he said earlier this week: “I’m not confirming and I’m not denying.”
Reports suggesting Allegri could be the long-term replacement for Arsene Wenger at Arsenal might be premature, but they appeared the same day Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri denied having met Juventus officials. Sarri, who steered Napoli to second spot in his first season in charge last term when former club striker Gonzalo Higuain hit a new league record of 36 goals, has a new contract until 2020 waiting to be signed.
But he said: “I don’t have time to think about the (new) contract. All I can tell you is I’ve called my lawyer to find out whether to sue the person who wrote that I met with (officials from) Juventus.
“This is completely false.”
With or without the rumours, Juventus look unstoppable in Italy.
Allegri’s men swept aside a battling Inter Milan to win 1-0 last week and moved further ahead with a 2-0 win at Crotone, postponed due to the Italian Super Cup final, in midweek.
Inter are still smarting and host Empoli hoping to get back to winning ways without the triple attacking threat of Mauro Icardi, Ivan Perisic and Marcelo Brozovic.
Croatia midfielder Perisic was shown a straight red card for insulting the referee and was banned for two games.
Icardi was handed the same sanction for launching a foul-mouthed tirade at the referee, as well as kicking the ball at him, without hitting him.
Inter have appealed the sanctions and are expected to have an answer before Sunday’s afternoon kick-off, when coach Stefano Pioli will also be without Brozovic after he suffered a broken toe in Turin.
City rivals AC Milan travel to Lazio on Monday buoyed by a precious 1-0 midweek win at Bologna, with nine men, which ended a run of three defeats.
“We’re very happy but we have to ask ourselves why we went down to nine men,” said midfielder Andrea Poli.
Milan were without Gabriel Paletta from the 37th minute and also lost Juraj Kucka to a second yellow card on the hour.
“There’s a good atmosphere, I can’t remember a game with so much adrenaline as that,” added Poli.
“On Monday we have to go to Rome and win.”
Lazio, however, are one of a few teams capable of troubling Roma and Napoli for one of the league’s three Champions League places. They sit fourth, 14 points behind leaders Juventus and five behind third-placed Napoli.
Striker Ciro Immobile has been criticised for a lack of goals against “big” sides, but said: “I’m under a little bit of pressure to score against a big side… it’s a very important game against Milan, they beat Bologna with nine men.”
Napoli host Genoa on Friday looking for a 13th consecutive league win, days before a Champions League last 16 clash at Real Madrid.
Despite the gap to Juve, club president Aurelio De Laurentiis said: “Even though Juventus are more clinical than us, I still believe in (finishing in) first place.
“Sarri’s football is unique in Europe. We should all recognise that we can go to Real Madrid believing in our chances.”
Fixtures (times GMT)
Napoli v Genoa (1945)
Fiorentina v Udinese (1945) Sunday Crotone v Roma (1130), Inter Milan v Empoli, Palermo v Atalanta, Sassuolo v Chievo, Torino v Pescara (all 1400), Sampdoria v Bologna (1700), Cagliari v Juventus (1945)
Lazio v AC Milan
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