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Football: Juve on verge of Italian title

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Juventus will secure their 29th Serie A title with a draw at home to relegation-threatened Palermo on Sunday as the battle for places in Europe, and to stay in Italy's top flight, heats up.

A draw for Juventus in Turin would give Antonio Conte's champions an unassailable 12-point lead over Napoli with three games remaining after this weekend.

All Walter Mazzarri's Napoli's side can realistically hope for is a win at home to Inter on Sunday in order to cement second place, which offers direct qualification for next season's Champions League.

AC Milan sit in third ahead of the visit of Torino to the San Siro Sunday, but are still seven points behind Napoli and are under pressure for the third and final Champions League spot from Fiorentina, in fourth only one point adrift.

Napoli midfielder Marek Hamsik has all but admitted his side's title hopes are over, but the Slovakian admitted Juve had simply been better.

"We've had a great season and only slipped up a few times. Unfortunately, Juventus did better," Hamsik told Sky Sport Italia.

"I can't have any regrets. We're improving as a team and you can't turn your nose up at a second place finish."

Juventus have lost only four times this season and with 66 goals are second only to Roma for goals scored (68).

In the absence of an out-and-out striker, Juventus's top scorer this campaign has been Chilean Arturo Vidal, who has scored nine in the league and 14 in all competitions.

He is now just three short of becoming Juventus's most prolific midfielder in a single Serie A season, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Any joy Napoli may garner from qualifying for Europe's top table next season may be tempered by the expected sale of their top scorer, Edinson Cavani.

The Uruguayan has scored a league-leading 23 goals, five more than Udinese marksman Antonio Di Natale, but is expected to be sold to either Real Madrid or Manchester City in the summer.

Reports have also suggested Mazzarri could be enticed elsewhere.

Hamsik, who has shone this season playing alongside Cavani and fellow forward Goran Pandev in Mazzarri's 4-3-3 formation, signed a contract extension at Napoli despite several enticing offers from around Europe.

He admitted: "I don't have any regrets and I'm happy to be here. I hope Mazzarri and Cavani can stay here."

Milan, meanwhile, welcome a Torino side still hurting from last week's 2-0 derby defeat to Juventus and will possibly be without influential midfielder Riccardo Montolivo after he suffered a knock in training on Thursday.

Striker Giampaolo Pazzini, who scored twice in a crucial come-from-behind 4-2 win over Catania, was also a concern although Milan said Montolivo "suffered from a muscular problem and will be evaluated over the next few days."

The threat from Fiorentina remains and their 21-year-old Serbian sensation Adem Ljajic -- who has scored an impressive eight goals in 26 league games -- says Champions League qualification is their priority.

"Third place is our main goal," Ljajic told Rai Sport. "From here to the final game of the season we have to keep on winning and hope for Milan to slip up."

While Milan will be expected to edge Torino, Fiorentina's opponents this weekend could prove trickier.

"We've got Roma this weekend and they've already beaten us twice this season in the league and the Cup," added Ljajic.

Milan defender Mattia De Sciglio, meanwhile, told Milan News: "We want to hold this position in the table so we can get into the Champions League.

"We can't focus on Fiorentina, only on ourselves. We have to keep on winning in order to maintain third place."

At the other end of the table Pescara travel to Genoa knowing defeat would virtually consign them to Serie B.

Second from bottom Siena face Catania away hoping to clinch the points that would allow them to leapfrog Genoa in the event Pescara cause an upset.

Saturday

Chievo v Cagliari, Fiorentina v Roma

Sunday

Udinese v Sampdoria, Catania v Siena, Genoa v Pescara, Juventus v Palermo, Lazio v Bologna, Milan v Torino, Parma v Atalanta, Napoli v Inter Milan

jd/dj

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