Soccer-Inter face ambitious Juve as race for top-four heats up

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Serie A - Spezia v Inter Milan - Stadio Alberto-Picco, La Spezia, Italy - March 10, 2023 Inter Milan's Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez move the ball after Spezia's Daniel Maldini scored their first goal REUTERS/Massimo Pinca

(Reuters) - Serie A's second-placed side Inter Milan face Juventus this weekend ahead of the international break, with the clash potentially deciding how the top four race in Italy will finish.

Runaway leaders Napoli have an 18 point advantage over Inter, but the league's other three Champions League spots remain up for grabs.

Juventus are on the rise after a 15-point deduction in January and are now in seventh place, ten points behind AC Milan in fourth.

While Juve have won five of their last six league matches, they may struggle on Sunday against a defensive Inter who have only conceded two goals in Serie A at San Siro this year.

Juve's injury list may pose a problem for coach Massimiliano Allegri who has key players Leonardo Bonucci, Paul Pogba, Alex Sandro and Paul Pogba all ruled out until next month.

Inter will be without defender Alessandro Bastoni who suffered a muscle injury during Tuesday's 0-0 draw in the Champions League at Porto.

Third-placed Lazio will host fifth-placed Roma in the "Derby della Capitale" on Sunday, but the visitors will be without manager Jose Mourinho who is serving the last of his two-match ban after his appeal was dismissed last week.

Lazio coach Maurizio Sarri will be without key striker Ciro Immobile and the suspended Matias Vecino, while Roma hope that midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini can return after an injury sustained against Real Sociedad in the Europa League.

Napoli are cruising towards their first Italian championship in 33 years and will visit Torino on Sunday who are still in the running for a place in European competition next season.

With 10 wins in 12 league matches this year, Napoli could secure the Scudetto before May.

Title holders Milan travel to Udinese on Saturday with the aim of rising to second place in the standings.

However, Stefano Pioli's side have struggled with their defence this season and only managed a draw against Salernitana at home on Monday.

"A team needs two things to defend well, everyone must be available and players must help each other. When there are these two things, we can work well," Pioli said.

Sixth-placed Atalanta sit six points off fourth but are in a rut with three losses in four matches, and a chasing Juve just behind them.

Gian Piero Gasperini's side welcome Empoli on Saturday, who have not won since January.

Bottom club Sampdoria meet Hellas Verona at home on Sunday in a match that might decide the season for the Genoa club. Sampdoria are 12 points off the safety zone with 12 matches left to play.

(Reporting by Tommy Lund in Gdansk; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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