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Soccer: Runaway leaders Juventus vow not to drop guard

Champions moved eight points clear with 3-0 win over Roma

07 January, 15:59
Soccer: Runaway leaders Juventus vow not to drop guard (By Paul Virgo) (ANSA) - Rome, January 7 - Juventus have vowed not to relax after moving eight points clear at the top of the table with Sunday's 3-0 drubbing of second-placed AS Roma.

Many pundits have said the Serie A title race is effectively over after goals by Arturo Vidal, Leonardo Bonucci and Mirko Vucinic enabled the reigning champions to hand Roma their first defeat of the season.

Former Roma coach Luciano Spalletti, now in charge of Russian side Zenit Saint Petersburg, joined them on Tuesday.

"I saw Juve v Roma," Spalletti said during a visit to the Pitti Immagine Uomo men's fashion fair in Florence.

"It was a chance for Roma to get back in the title battle.

Now I see that as difficult. Only Juve can lose the title". Roma, who ended the game in nine men as midfielder Daniele De Rossi and Brazilian defender Leandro Castan were both sent off, had led the standings by five points after setting a new record for the best start to a Serie A season by winning their first 10 games.

They have quickly seen that lead turn into a big deficit.

Juve have piled up a massive total of 49 points, winning all but two of the 18 matches disputed so far and all of their last 10, with one game to go to the season's half-way mark.

But the Turin side insist they are taking nothing for granted.

"We have a considerable advantage now, but there are too many games to be played and we mustn't let our guard down," said Juve's Italy defender Andrea Barzagli.

Coach Antonio Conte struck the same tone.

"The eight-point gap is important but we can't afford to let it deceive us and lose concentration," said Conte, who is seeking to lead the Turin giants to their third consecutive title.

"Anything is still possible, just look at how we've made up 13 points on Roma".

Roma's French coach Rudi Garcia, who has transformed the Giallorossi since arriving in the close season following several disappointing campaigns, agreed that there was a long way to go.

But he was also coy about his side's championship ambitions.

"We have to push on and get back to winning ways as quickly as possible," said Garcia.

"There are another 60 points to play for before the season is out so the league is not over. "But, as I've said lots of times, our target was never to win the title, but to get back into Europe (next season)".

Brazil playmaker Kaka scored his 100th and 101st goals to help struggling AC Milan beat Atalanta 3-0 on Monday. Seven-time European champions Milan are 11th with 22 points, 27 behind Juve, but they are also the only Italian team to have reached the knockout stage of the Champions League. Before the match Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri confirmed he will leave the club at the end of the season. Milan won the Serie A title in the 2010-11 season, their first under Allegri, but have not won any mayor trophies since. Lazio defeated Inter Milan 1-0 thanks to a Miroslav Klose volley to give Edy Reja a winning start to his second stint in charge of the Rome side.

Third-placed Napoli beat Sampdoria 2-0 while promoted Hellas Verona won 3-1 at Udinese to leapfrog Inter and climb to fifth place.

Udinese's former Italy forward Antonio di Natale, 36, shocked fans after the defeat by announcing that he will retire at the end of the season.

Fourth-place Fiorentina beat Tuscan rivals 1-0 on Sunday but their triumph was overshadowed by a knee injury to Serie A's top scorer Giuseppe Rossi.

The Italy forward damaged ligaments in his right knee, the same one he suffered two cruciate ligament injuries on, sidelining him for two years.

He is expected to be out for at least two months, which is a setback to his hopes of playing for Italy at this year's World Cup in Brazil.