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Fiorentina stand in Juve's path to double

Rivals in for three showdowns in 12 days

28 February, 19:45
Fiorentina stand in Juve's path to double (By Paul Virgo) (ANSA) - Rome, February 28 - Fiorentina are standing in Juventus's path towards an European-domestic double.

The rivals are set for three big showdowns in the space of 12 days after they both qualified for the last 16 of the Europa League.

Serie A leaders Juve beat Trabzonspor 2-0 in Turkey on Thursday to complete a 4-0 aggregate win and set up a clash in the next round with Fiorentina.

The Florence side drew 1-1 with Danes Esbjerg to go through 4-2 on aggregate after winning the first leg 3-1 away from home.

The legs of the tie will be played on March 13 and 20, with the return in Florence.

The two teams will also do battle in a Serie A clash in Turin on March 9, when Italian champions Juve will be seeking to avenge the 4-2 loss they suffered at Fiorentina in October - their only league loss this season so far.

"It's never good that two teams from the same country face each other in the last 16," said Juventus coach Antonio Conte.

"I'd like all of us to progress. Fiorentina will be a very, very tough hurdle".

Napoli also made it to the last 16 of the Europa League thanks to Thursday's 3-1 home win over Swansea.

But Italy's fourth team in the competition, Lazio, crashed out 4-3 on aggregate after being held 3-3 at Ludogorets Razgrad in Bulgaria on Thursday.

The final of this year's Europa League will be played at Juve's plush new stadium, which was opened in 2011, and the Turin side are hoping to be there to complete a Europa League-Serie A double.

Juventus, who are in the Europa League after being knocked out of the Champions League in the group stage, are nine points clear at the top of Serie A.

But Fiorentina will also be fired up for all three matches against their bitter rivals Juve.

As well as wanting a place in the Europa League quarter-finals, Fiorentina also need points in Serie A to boost their chances of finishing in the top three and qualifying for next season's Champions League. They are currently fourth, six points behind third-placed Napoli.

"They are tough opponents, definitely very strong," said Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Montella. "We'll have to be at our best".

Conte's men will now be trying to recuperate their energies after the long trip to Trabzon ahead of Sunday's big Serie A match at AC Milan.

Seven-time European champions Milan are a lowly ninth in Serie A, but their form has improved sharply after former midfielder Clarence Seedorf replaced Massimiliano Allegri as coach in January. "Beating Juve is very important," said Milan's Brazilian playmaker Kakà.

"It's not just important for the standings, but also on an emotional level, in terms of our development. "It would fire us up for the end of the season". Milan are Italy's only survivor in the Champions League but they lost the home leg of their last-16 tie against Atletico Madrid 1-0. The return in the Spanish capital is on March 11.

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