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Juventus turn focus from scandal to 'scudetto'

Written by: Staff

MILAN, May 12: After a week dominated by a scandal surrounding tapped telephone conversations, Juventus turn their focus back to the pitch on Sunday and the securing of their 29th title on the final day of the season.

The entire board of the defending champions resigned yesterday as investigations and accusations mounted up against Juve general manager Luciano Moggi and CEO Antonio Giraudo but on Sunday the club will be hoping for a break from the scandal.

Fabio Capello's Juventus have a three-point lead over AC Milan and anything but a defeat by Reggina will secure a second successive scudetto'.

Milan can win the title only if they beat AS Roma at the San Siro and Juventus lose to Reggina.

Juve's fixture is an away' game but is being played at the neutral venue of Bari after sanctions were imposed on Reggina after crowd trouble.

Should the two teams finish level on points the title would go to Milan who have the better of the head-to-head record against Juventus. The two games between the clubs ended in a 0-0 draw and a 3-1 victory for Milan.

Normally, in the event of a tie for top spot the clubs would play off over two legs. With the World Cup starting in June, the Football League ruled at the start of the season that there would be no play-offs this season.

Few expected the title race would go down to the wire given that Juve led Milan by 14 points at one stage and had a 10-point lead in March before a run of five straight draws.

But Capello's side have won their last two games and given they are unbeaten in their last 27 league outings it is hard to imagine them stumbling in Bari.

French midfielder Patrick Vieira is suspended and his compatriot, fullback Jonathan Zebina, is struggling for fitness.

Federico Balzaretti could step in at right back with Giuliano Giannichedda taking Vieira's slot in the centre of midfield.

Juve's preparations have been overshadowed by the scandal surrounding their general manager Moggi and on Thursday the entire board of the club resigned en masse.

The publication of Moggi's conversations with senior soccer federation officials about refereeing appointments along with two magistrates' investigations looking at his son's management agency as well as an investigation into Juve CEO Giraudo who is suspected by magistrates of false accounting, led the entire board to hand in their resignation.

Milan are without Ukrainian striker Andriy Shevchenko who has a knee injury so Alberto Gilardino will partner Filippo Inzaghi against Roma who could feature Francesco Totti.

Totti made his return to action, after almost three months out with a broken ankle, when he came on as a substitute in Roma's Italian Cup final defeat to Inter Milan on Thursday.

Milan's Brazilian defender Cafu, who won the title with Roma and Totti five years ago, believes there is a chance of an upset on the final day.

''We still believe we can do it because anything can happen in football. Nothing is decided yet and we have to believe in ourselves until the end.

''It will be a tough game for us - we have to win it and then hope for good news from Reggina,'' he said.

Unlike Reggina, Roma have plenty to play for on the final day because they can still catch Fiorentina and take fourth place which brings a spot in the qualifying round for next season's Champions League.

Fiorentina, who are away to Chievo, have a two-point lead over Roma. All three of the relegation spots have been decided with Lecce, Treviso and Messina going down.


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