Juventus coach Antonio Conte leads his side into Sunday’s derby against Torino fearing the champions’ bid for a third consecutive scudetto could be hampered by their Europa League ambitions.
Juve hold a nine-point lead over Roma in Italy’s Serie A, which could be cut to six if Rudi Garica’s men win their game in hand over Parma, with Napoli a distant third a further four points off the pace.
At just past the halfway point stage, it looks to be a two-horse race for the title but Conte has refused to rule out slip-ups along the way.
“It’s a crucial point in the season as regards the league and Europe so it’s now we should be concentrating most,” Conte said prior to a 2-0 first-leg win over Trabzonspor in the last 32 of the Europa League.
“My warning is simple: we have to be extra vigilant. We’ve got 14 games left, plus a 15th if you count the players who will be on international (friendly) duty.”
After a disastrous Champions League campaign ended at the group stage, Juve, as well as league rivals Napoli and Fiorentina, are in contention for Europa League glory.
But Juve’s next test on the domestic front comes against a Torino side that has lost only twice in their past 12 games, their last win a surprise 3-1 rout of Verona on Monday.
Along with Verona, Torino have been one of the surprise packages this season and club sporting director Gianluca Petrachi pointed to forward Ciro Immobile as one of the driving forces behind the club’s bid for a place in Europe.
“He’s making huge progress. Last summer (coach, Giampiero) Ventura were the only ones that could see his potential,” Petrachi told Tuttosport newspaper.
“No one would have bet anything on him but we did and so far we’re reaping the dividends.”