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Soccer: Juve face Lyon in double bid

Pirlo 'still on fire' at 34

21 March, 19:03
Soccer: Juve face Lyon in double bid (By Denis Greenan).

(ANSA) - Rome, March 21 - Favourites Juventus were handed a difficult tie against Lyon in the Europa League quarter-finals Friday but the two-time European champions are still hoping to keep their dream of an unprecedented Serie A-Europa League double alive.

Andrea Pirlo, whose superb free-kick Wednesday settled the last-16 battle with their Italian rivals Fiorentina to keep the Serie A leaders on track for a European triumph on home turf two months from now, said: "We're really up for this.

"We respect Lyon - just look at all the French titles they've won - but we think we can give the fans a treat in May," said the veteran Italy playmaker, whose seemingly endless Indian summer has boosted Juve to two straight titles and looks set to help deliver their third this year.

"At 34, Pirlo is playing better than ever. Class is not water," the Italian sports press said Friday, using a common Italian soccer term to say that form is temporary but innate gifts permanent.

"He may be the coolest character around, but he's simply on fire in terms of form," the press said.

"He never lets Juve or Italy down".

With 10 games to go in Italy's top league, Juve have a 14-point cushion over second-placed AS Roma.

Although former Lyon coach Rudi Garcia's Romans have a game in hand, bookies have already all but handed the scudetto to the Turin giants.

In Florence Wednesday night, Pirlo's dead-ball accuracy on 71 minutes, caressing the ball high into the far right of the net, handed Juve a 1-0 victory and a 2-1 aggregate success over the Viola.

His strike came after Fiorentina were reduced to 10 men two minutes earlier after Gonzalo Rodríguez was sent off for tripping Fernando Llorente just outside the box.

Antonio Conte's Bianconeri, whose stadium will host the final in Turin on May 14, will travel to France for the first leg on April 3 with the return a week later.

It will be seven-time Ligue 1 winner Lyon's first meeting with Juve ever and their first with an Italian team since they shared home wins with Fiorentina in the group stage of the Champions League in 2009.

Fiorentina topped the group that year and were unlucky to go out to Bayern Munich in the last 16, while Lyon were second in the group.

Juventus are chasing their first European title since the 1996 Champions League.

La Vecchia Signora's other European Cup win was at Heysel in 1984.

They also won the old Uefa Cup three times and the Cup Winners' Cup once.

Wednesday's Florence match was the third showdown between the fierce rivals in just 12 days.

Juve, who are in the Europa League after exiting the Champions League at the group stage, beat Fiorentina 1-0 in a Serie A match in Turin on March 9.

But Fiorentina came back from two goals down to beat Juve 4-2 in the early-season fixture in October and hand the champions their only league loss this season so far.

Italy's other representative in the Europa League, Napoli, lost to Porto on Thursday.

In the rest of the draw, Benfica, beaten finalists last season, were drawn against the Dutch club AZ Alkmaar while their compatriots Porto face Sevilla.

In the other tie, Basel meet Valencia with the Swiss side, beaten semi-finalists last season, at home in the first leg.

Basel could still face disciplinary action after Thursday's match at Salzburg was interrupted in the first half for 12 minutes when their fans hurled plastic bottles and cigarette lighters at an opposing player.

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