Football: Giants fear Udinese

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The Independent Online
After stunning Italian football by beating Juventus 3-0 in Turin last Sunday, Udinese have the chance to do it all again today when they travel to second-placed Parma.

Juventus' first loss in 12 league outings, coupled with Parma's 1-0 defeat of AS Roma, left the top duo just three points apart (52-49) in the standings. Juventus were due to play Bologna away last night knowing that their match against Parma on 25 May will now go a long way to deciding the destiny of the title.

That is unless Udinese can do to Parma what they did to Juve. In seventh place and with a chance at a Uefa Cup berth, Udinese have a truly explosive attack - when it clicks. Germany's Oliver Bierhoff and Brazil's Marcio Amoroso - who signed a contract extension on Tuesday that ties him to Udinese until 2002 - are as dangerous a pairing as exists in Italy. But Parma's recent run of success (10 wins in 13 games to climb steadily from 14th place) is built on a defence which boasts a league-high of 15 clean sheets. That is the key, because only three clubs have scored fewer goals than Parma's 30.

The defending champions, Milan, in 12th place after losing their last two games by a combined score of 9-2, host Piacenza, who are 14th. When the clubs met in December, Piacenza - the lone league team without foreigners - pulled off a 3-2 victory, precipitating Oscar Tabarez's departure as Milan coach. Arrigo Sacchi arrived from the national team, but. under his control, Milan's record has actually been worse. Milan and their beleaguered coach are desperate for a win.

In France, Nice, doomed to relegation from the first division, will be looking to salvage some pride with a place in the French Cup final when they take on Laval, from the second division, today.

The veteran Nice defender Jean-Philippe Mattio said a final berth provided the Cote d'Azur club with the opportunity to "save a very difficult year". Laval, semi-finalists in 1993, are aiming to become the second successive side outside the top flight to reach the final after third division Nimes' incredible run last season.

Bobby Robson's team, Barcelona, must regroup after Wednesday's 3-1 defeat to Valladolid that all but ended their hopes of pulling back the Spanish League leaders, Real Madrid. Barcelona, who are now 10 points behind, know they have to beat Atletico Bilbao today to keep clear of the pack chasing the second Champions' League place. Real Madrid play Valencia tomorrow night.

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