MILAN: Emerging Italy striker Simone Zaza could pay for a moment of midweek madness when champions Juventus travel to Frosinone on Sunday (Monday in Manila) looking to extend a new club record in a bid to keep tabs on Serie A leaders Napoli.
Juve striker Zaza saw red in the final minutes of Wednesday’s 1-0 home win over Genoa after a needless challenge from behind on Armando Izzo.
Lambasted by Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri, the former Sassuolo front man is expected to be on the sidelines when the Turin giants travel south looking to avenge an early season draw with Roberto Stellone’s men.
For Allegri, it is a double dilemma: although forced to punish Zaza, he could be robbing himself of the chance to rest either Paulo Dybala or Alvaro Morata ahead of next weekend’s top-of-the-table clash at home to Napoli.
But the 48-year-old hinted Zaza, who is among the players fighting to be included in Antonio Conte’s Euro 2016 squad this summer, will at least start on the bench.
“He has to learn to keep his head, whether he’s playing regularly or coming off the bench,” Allegri said.
“We have some young players at the club who maybe lack the experience of being in a big side like ours.
“But they have to grow up quickly. These kinds of tackles are useless, but Simone is an intelligent lad and he will understand and learn from this.”
Juve set a new club record of 13 consecutive league wins to improve the previous record of 12 set under former coach Conte in 2013-2014.
The Turin giants will be expected to make it 14, but after Wednesday’s bruiser, the champions face another rough and tumble encounter.
“These kinds of games often serve to remind you that it’s never easy to win, they keep your feet on the ground,” added Allegri.
If Napoli end their 26-year wait for the title they last won thanks to Diego Maradona, Frosinone coach Stellone will expect a share of the credit.
Frosinone held Juve to a 1-1 draw in Turin in their fifth match of the campaign to leave Juve winless after the champions had lost their opening four fixtures.
The Canaries boosted their survival hopes with a precious 1-0 win over Bologna in midweek and 38-year-old Stellone is hungry for more points, especially as he has a soft spot for Napoli.
“It will be a complicated because they’re on a 13-game winning streak and in great form,” said Stellone.
“But I was once a Napoli player, so hopefully I can give the fans of my old club some joy.”
Napoli’s hopes of a first title since 1990 seem to gather pace every time Maurizio Sarri’s men lace up their boots.
Striker Gonzalo Higuain hit his 23rd league goal in as many games in a 2-0 win at Lazio in midweek that was marred by racist chanting aimed at Napoli’s French-born Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly.
Lorenzo Insigne has hit 10 goals so far and is leading the league in assists (20), just ahead of Slovakian teammate Marek Hamsik (15).
The Azzurri will expect to account for struggling Carpi at home, but a seventh consecutive league win on Wednesday wasn’t enough for Sarri — despite the fact Napoli last achieved that feat in 1988.
“All I can say is, we didn’t win anything that season,” said Sarri dryly.
AC Milan were champions in 1988 and although Sinisa Mihajlovic’s men are well out of contention at 14 points adrift, a third consecutive win at home to Udinese would boost their bid for a place in Europe next season.
Elsewhere, Fiorentina coach Paulo Sousa will serve a one-game touchline ban for a tough trip to resurgent Bologna on Saturday when a win for the hosts would be welcomed by Inter Milan.
Inter sit fourth, one point adrift of Fiorentina, ahead of their visit early Sunday to Verona, who beat Atalanta 2-1 in midweek to claim their first win of the season.
Fixtures (times GMT)
Bologna v Fiorentina (1700), Genoa v Lazio (1945)
Verona v Inter Milan (1130), Frosinone v Juventus, AC Milan v Udinese, Napoli v Carpi, Sassuolo v Palermo, Torino v Chievo (all 1400), Atalanta v Empoli (1700), Roma v Sampdoria (1945)