Five things to watch out for in Serie A this weekend

Milan’s capitulation against Roma last weekend has opened the door for Juventus – who were much-maligned earlier in the season – to become the main challengers to Napoli.

And the opportunity for the Old Lady to cut the gap at the top to just four points presents itself on Friday evening as Massimiliano Allegri’s men head to Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

That fixture is just one of NINE you can watch exclusively live on BT Sport this week, so read on for all the major Matchday 18 storylines to look out for.

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Miserly Juve face league’s sternest test

Juventus are not having the best time of things off the field.

The Turin outfit are embroiled in a false accouting scandal, being accused of downplaying significant financial losses and of claiming that players had agreed to post-Covid salary reductions that were allegedly far smaller than had been recorded by the club.

The saga is considered the most embarrassing episode for the Italian giants since the Calciopoli betting fiasco that saw them demoted to Serie B in the mid-2000s.

On the pitch though, things are thankfully looking a lot rosier.

Despite an injury list comprising Paul Pogba, Dusan Vlahovic, Leanardo Bonucci, Juan Cuadrado, Mattia De Sciglio and now centre-back Bremer (the latter two being doubts to face Napoli), Massimiliano Allegri has managed to turn Juventus into a winning machine.

The once-perennial Serie A winners have tasted victory in their last eight matches, incredibly without conceding a single goal.

That defensive resilience will be severely tested on Friday night.

Sure, Napoli’s scoring rate has slowed in recent games either side of the World Cup, but they are still the best attacking force in the country and in Victor Osimhen possess the division’s leading marksman.

The Nigerian’s 10th league goal of the season – in just his 13th appearance – came in a 2-0 win at 10-man Sampdoria last time out as he expertly guided in Mario Rui’s searching cross.

The 24-year-old appears hungrier than ever, and will next face off against a former Napoli team-mate, Arkadiusz Milik.

The Poland striker scored 48 times in 122 games for the Partenopei before finally joining Marseille permanently last summer after two years on loan in the south of France.

Now back on loan in Italy, Milik has seven goals to his name this term and recently bagged a 91st-minute winner at Cremonese.

Massimiliano Allegri watches on as Alex Sandro takes a throw-in against Udinese

Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus have let in just seven league goals this term – and none in their last eight Serie A games

Shaky Milan encounter one of their own

After seeing off Salernitana in their first match following the World Cup, Milan must have felt they were building up some momentum when they led 2-0 against Roma.

However, the Rossoneri were dealt the most gut-wrenching blow late on as Roger Ibanez peeled away from Sandro Tonali to power home on 87 minutes, before Tammy Abraham was quickest to pounce after Nemanja Matic’s header was kept out by Ciprian Tatarusanu.

Perhaps this shocking collapse was as much down to a crippling injury list as it was to individual lapses in concentration, but Stefano Pioli may still be without nine first-team players, including goalkeeper Mike Maignan and attackers Divock Origi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The reigning champions now head to Lecce hoping to capitalize on any possible Juventus slip-up at Napoli, but they will be up against an opponent that has taken 11 points from the last 15 on offer and has Lorenzo Colombo, on loan from Milan, leading the line.

The 20-year-old has really come into his own, scoring three and assisting two in his last five top-flight games for the side who won Serie B last season.

A confident finisher from close range, Colombo has demonstrated his ability to pounce on defensive mistakes and smell where crosses will land.

Every one of his four strikes has come at an important time and he also has the strength of character to respond emphatically to setbacks, as he showed by scoring a screamer at Napoli just minutes after missing a penalty.

Unlike in England, loanees can play against their parent club. Milan beware.

Lecce's Lorenzo Colombo (right) celebrates scoring against Lazio

Lorenzo Colombo (right) could be a thorn in the side of parent club Milan on Saturday

Josh shows he’s got that Doig in him

In what has been a depressing season for Hellas Verona and their fans, the form of Scottish left-back Josh Doig, signed in the summer from Hibernian, has been a source of some solace.

The 20-year-old underlined what he’s all about in Monday’s vital 2-0 win over Cremonese when he produced a lung-busting run from well inside his own half to the edge of the visitors’ penalty area and then played a lovely measured pass for Darko Lazovic to bag his second of the evening.

Although Inter are most certainly a cut above Cremonese, Doig will be optimistic that he can exploit the Nerazzurri’s tendency to play a back three, no matter if they opt for Matteo Darmian or Denzel Dumfries at right wing-back.

Verona are still six points adrift of safety, but Simone Inzaghi’s side do look vulnerable at the moment, possessing the worst defense in the top 10, which appears jittery when forced to defend crosses coming into their box.

That was how Monza profited deep into stoppage time last weekend, while second-tier Parma were on top of Inter for long spells of their Coppa Italia clash on Tuesday before eventually succumbing to the favourites.

However, Verona have the second-worst rearguard in the entire league, one that needs to work out a way to stop Lautaro Martinez, who has scored in each of his last two games.

Only Osimhen sits ahead of the World Cup winner in the division’s scoring charts this season. This would be an ideal opportunity to add to his tally of him.

Josh Doig in possession for Hellas Verona against Cremonese

Josh Doig has been a recognition since joining Hellas Verona in the summer from Hibernian

Lax Lazio need boost in UCL quest

Heading into the World Cup break, Lazio were holding onto the fourth and final Champions League spot despite suffering a 3-0 loss to Juventus.

On their return to action, games against Lecce and Empoli, although tricky, were not the sort of fixtures that should intimidate a side with ambitions of dining at European football’s top table.

However, defensive sloppiness saw a 1-0 lead soon turn into a 2-1 deficit in the first of those matches, while in the second, a 2-0 advantage evaporated late on as Lazio were forced to accept a draw in front of a stunned Olympic Stadium.

Maurizio Sarri’s men now head into a meeting with Sassuolo needing three points, with city rivals Roma and Atalanta sitting on the same number of points as the Eagles and Inter three points ahead of them.

Mercifully for Lazio, their upcoming opponents are on a woeful run of form.

Having taken just one point from their last six games, the Neroverdi have unexpectedly been dragged into a relegation battle and while they still sit seven points clear of 18th-placed Hellas Verona, both Verona and 19th-placed Sampdoria are looking better than Sassuolo right now .

Can Alessio Dionisi’s charges secure their first win since 24 October?

Will Cremonese ever win this season?

Things are starting to look increasingly desperate for Cremonese.

The Grigiorossi had a golden opportunity to finally secure their first Serie A win of the season against bottom side Hellas Verona on Monday, only for their defense to go fatally missing on two occasions in the first half.

That 2-0 loss means Massimiliano Alvini’s newly-promoted outfit are in a heap of trouble – if they weren’t before – and this weekend represents what must be one of the few decent chances they have left to haul themselves towards safety.

Fellow new boys Monza may have drawn to Fiorentina and Inter since the restart, but they are still 15th and have won only once on their travels in the league this season.

Those facts,]alone should give the hosts hope that they might emerge victorious, despite having failed to score in their last four outings. This match won’t be for the purists.

Cristian Buonaiuto calls for calm during Cremonese's loss to Hellas Verona

Time is running out for Cremonese in their bid to avoid an immediate return to Serie B

Your Serie A weekend on BT Sport

Friday

Naples vs Juventus (7.30pm on BT Sport 1)

Saturday

Lecce vs Milan (5.15pm on BT Sport 1)

Inter vs Hellas Verona (7.30pm on BT Sport 1)

Sunday

Sassuolo vs Lazio (11.30am on BT Sport 3)

Udinese vs Bologna (2pm on BT Sport 3)

Turin vs Spice (2pm on BT Sport 6)

Atalanta vs Salernitana (5pm on BT Sport 3)

Rome vs Florentine (7.45pm on BT Sport 1)

Monday

Empoli vs Sampdoria (7.30pm on BT Sport 1)

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