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After Ronaldo magic, Juventus bid to keep home fires burning at Benevento

Milan (AFP) – After a spectacular loss to Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid, Juventus travel Saturday to meet Benevento, a side from outside Naples propping up the bottom of the Serie A table.

Ronaldo’s two goals — including a stunning overhead bicycle kick — condemned Juventus to a 3-0 defeat in the Champions League Wednesday.

Sandwiched in between the quarter-final return leg trip midweek to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium is a first-ever clash at Benevento, who have won just four games in their first top flight season.

It was a bruising week for Italian football with AS Roma conceding two own goals in a 4-1 defeat to Barcelona.

Lazio however eased to a 4-2 home win against Salzburg in the Europa League.

“Now let’s get up quickly,” urged Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri of a season that can still reap his side the Scudetto and the Italian Cup. 

“There’s a return to the Barnabeu to prepare, but above all a championship to win, the seventh in a row, which would have the taste of a myth.

“I understand the disappointment. But I find it hard to reproach a team that has tried, against the best in the world.”

Argentine ace Paulo Dybala was also unbowed after his humiliating send-off at Allianz Stadium, where the applause of Juventus fans was reserved for Ronaldo’s spectacular performance.

“Defeats are always bad even when they come against teams and champions so strong, but now we need to move forward: sacrifice, strength, passion and continue to improve every day,” wrote Dybala on Instagram.

“Whoever believes it’s already over is not one of us,” added Italian midfielder Claudio Marchisio.

Miralem Pjanic, who was disqualified for the first leg against Real Madrid, warned Juventus against underestimating Benevento, who went a goal up in Turin last November before the champions came back to win 2-1. 

Benevento are fighting a losing battle for survival as they sit 13 points from safety, despite coming off a 3-0 home win over Verona midweek.

“It’s much like the match against SPAL,” said Pjanic of last month’s goalless draw which ended his club’s 12-match league winning streak.

– Napoli take title push to Chievo –

Second-placed Napoli — four points behind Juventus — will need a win at 14th-placed Chievo after being held 1-1 at Sassuolo last weekend if they want to keep their push for their first title since 1990 alive.

AS Roma, in third, host Fiorentina before next Tuesday’s visit by Barcelona to the Stadio Olympico, looking to keep ahead of Inter Milan who are just a point behind in fourth.

Fiorentina are pushing for the Europa League spots as they sit four points adrift of sixth place along with Atalanta and Sampdoria.

Luciano Spalletti’s Inter travel to Torino after their midweek goalless draw against city rivals AC Milan.

Gennaro Gattuso has just penned a new three-year contract with AC Milan worth a reported two million euros per year despite the derby draw effectively ending their push for Champions League football next season.

The former seven-time European champions, who are eight points off the Champions League places in sixth, host struggling Sassuolo.

Lazio — two points off the Champions League places — travel north to Udinese boosted by their European win.

Fixtures (all times GMT)


Benevento v Juventus (1300GMT), AS Roma v Fiorentina, SPAL v Atalanta (1600), Sampdoria v Genoa (1845)


Torino v Inter Milan (1030GMT), Crotone v Bologna, Verona v Cagliari, Napoli v Chievo (all 1300), Udinese v Lazio (1600), AC Milan v Sassuolo (1845)

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