Juve and Lazio seek Italian Cup triumph amid tense season climax
ROMEMay 18, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
May 18, 2015 12:00 am
Serie A champions Juventus and Lazio will square off to lift the Italian Cup Wednesday in Rome as both sides gear up for an intense season finale.
The Bianconeri from Turin secured their fourth consecutive scudetto four games before the end of a domestic league where Lazio, with two games to go, are battling for a berth in the next Champions League.
Juve have unexpectedly clinched a place in this season final of Europe's top club competition in which they will tackle Spanish champions Barcelona in Berlin on June 6. The Bianconeri qualified by eliminating holders Real Madrid, which caused the Italian Cup final to be moved from its original June 7 date.
Juve will go to Berlin as underdogs, but are favorites in the Italian final against their Rome rivals who have the advantage of playing at the Stadio Olimpico, where the cup is traditionally awarded.
The Bianconeri beat Lazio in both clashes of the current league season, winning 3-0 in Rome and 2-0 in Turin, and showed great focus on the weekend, rallying, with seven substitutes on the pitch to win 2-1 at Inter Milan.
But Lazio also did well at solid Sampdoria, winning 1-0 to remain third and one point from second-place Roma.
"Away, against a great Sampdoria, three heavy points. Now comes the best. Let's not give up," captain Stefano Mauri tweeted.
Goalkeeper Federico Marchetti missed the game due to a suspension and urged the squad to "get what we deserve."
Marchetti's encouragement was two-fold as Lazio chase the cup and second place to get direct access to the next Champions League - the third-placed side face a play-off game and fourth-place finishers have to settle for the Europa League.
A crucial city derby with Roma with 67 points awaits Lazio with 66 with points next weekend, with a season closing game following at Napoli, sitting fourth with 60 points, but with a game in hand to be played Monday.
Coach Stefano Pioli has Antonio Candreva and Felipe Anderson in form as providers for either veteran Miroslav Klose or the recovering Filip Djordjevic up front. Defenders Santiago Gentiletti and Stefan de Vrij are also back from injury while midfielder Lucas Biglia is unavailable.
Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri looks set to select reserve goalkeeper Marco Storari, who at 38 made a couple of impressive saves against Inter, and again rest ace Gianluigi Buffon.