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Football: Conte urging Juve to refocus on title race

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(GlobalPost/GlobalPost)

Juventus's joy at reaching the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in seven years will quickly be archived as they turn their attentions to defending their Serie A title this weekend.

Juve reached the last eight of Europe's premier club competition with a dominant 5-0 aggregate victory over Celtic, helped by Wednesday's 2-0 success at home.

Their progression was little more than a formality following their opening 3-0 success at Celtic Park and now the tie is over, coach Antonio Conte has urged his players to focus on domestic matters.

Juve lead the table by six points from Napoli, who have proved inconsistent since the turn of the year, and host European football-chasing Catania on Saturday.

But Conte doesn't want the delight at re-establishing themselves as one of the continent's strongest forces to sidetrack his players from the domestic campaign.

"Now that we're in the quarter-finals the Champions League is a dream that we want to continue cultivating," said Conte.

"But first we must think about Catania. We're the favourites in the league, which is only right, but we expect to have many challenges for which I expect more than ever to need everyone."

So far Juve have managed their twin objectives with panache but their nearest rivals Napoli have nothing left to play for except Serie A, having been eliminated from the Europa League last month in a shocking 5-0 aggregate loss to Czechs Viktoria Plzen.

Napoli face a tricky match this weekend away to Chievo where they have struggled in recent years, losing on both their last two visits.

Perhaps more alarming than history for coach Walter Mazzarri has been his side's recent slump.

They have failed to win any of their last six games in all competitions and have drawn their last four in the league.

Despite boasting Serie A top scorer Edinson Cavani in their ranks, they have found the net only twice in that time.

Such form will have them looking nervously over their shoulders at hard-charging AC Milan, the form team in Serie A who travel to Genoa on Friday.

Despite beginning the season in disastrous fashion, losing five of their first eight domestic encounters, Massimiliano Allegri's men are unbeaten in nine league games since the turn of the year and have won 10 of their last 14 Serie A clashes.

Last week's 3-0 success over Lazio propelled them above the Romans into third and the last Champions League qualification position.

Lazio host Fiorentina while fourth-placed Inter Milan, stunned 3-0 by Tottenham in the Europa League on Thursday, entertain Bologna.

Fixtures (1400 GMT unless stated):

Friday

Genoa v AC Milan (1945)

Saturday

Udinese v Roma (1945)

Sunday

Atalanta v Pescara (1130), Cagliari v Sampdoria, Chievo v Napoli, Juventus v Catania, Palermo v Siena, Parma v Torino, Inter Milan v Bologna (1945), Lazio v Fiorentina (1945)

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130307/football-conte-urging-juve-refocus-title-race