Football: Juventus urged to greater efforts

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THE Juventus coach, Marcello Lippi, is calling on his side to give their all as the Italian League leaders go into the last six matches of the season this weekend.

The title holders have an easy match on paper against Piacenza, who are fighting their perennial relegation battle and, buoyed by last Sunday's 1-0 victory over Lazio which almost certainly rendered the Serie A title race a two-team affair with Internazionale, Juventus will be at full strength for the match at the Stadio Delli Alpi in Turin.

"We can only gauge the importance of beating Lazio after tomorrow's game," Lippi said. "Everyone says the title is decided in the head-to-head games among the top clubs but I think it's in the supposedly easy matches.

"We nearly jeopardised our whole season by drawing with Napoli, Lazio did the same by drawing with Piacenza, and Inter by losing at home to Bari and Bologna. Beating Lazio will only count for a lot if we also beat Piacenza."

Alessandro Del Piero and Filippo Inzaghi will lead the attack, hoping to add to their 53-goal tally this season, although there may also be room for Uruguayan Marcelo Zalayeta.

Trying to stop them will be the oldest man in Serie A, Piacenza defender Pietro Vierchowod, who turned 39 this week and who was well into his second season as a professional when Zalayeta was born.

Juventus have a one-point lead at the top after winning in Rome and now Inter must try and match that feat when Gigi Simoni's team face improving Roma, who are fourth in the table. Ronaldo, joint top scorer in Serie A with 19 goals, will see some familiar faces in the Roma defence in Brazil team-mates Aldair and Cafu.

Simoni is expected to pick Youri Djorkaeff to partner Ronaldo up front despite the Frenchman's poor form since January. Chilean Ivan Zamorano and Nigerian Nwankwo Kanu will be on the bench.

Inter have won their last four league matches but must also secure victory to be sure of keeping up with Juventus. Lazio, four points further back, must try and bounce back again when they travel to struggling Brescia. Defeat to Juventus in front of 80,000 at the Olympic Stadium was followed by a 1-0 defeat at Milan in the Italian Cup final first leg on Wednesday.

Now the coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, must try and revive morale for the second time in a week. Lazio's chances of winning the title look to have gone but they could still deny Inter a place in the European Champions' League next season. Eriksson is expected to return to a three-man attack, fielding Croatian Alen Boksic, Roberto Mancini and Pierluigi Casiraghi. Brescia will rely on 15-goal striker Dario Hubner.

Udinese, bidding for a place in next season's Uefa Cup, are at home to Bari, while Fiorentina face Vicenza, who are preparing for their trip to Stamford Bridge for the European Cup-Winners' Cup semi-final second leg against Chelsea next week.

A survey shows that most Italian football fans want Roberto Baggio as part of Italy's World Cup team in France - but only as a reserve player. In the survey by the monthly magazine Calcio 2000, whose results were made public Friday, 72 percent said the 31-year-old forward should be included. However, 59 percent suggested he should be among the substitutes.

The magazine noted that Baggio is seen by most fans as a possible "tactical weapon" to be fielded for portions of matches to produce a key play. Baggio, who plays for Bologna, was Italy's hero at the 1994 World Cup in the United States, scoring decisive goals and helping the team reach the final against Brazil, but his contribution will forever be overshadowed by the spot kick he missed in the penalty shoot-out to decide the final.