Milan (AFP) – Cristiano Ronaldo returns to Serie A on Saturday with Juventus looking to reboot their title defence against struggling city rivals Torino.
Hopes of a 10th consecutive league title were rocked when Juventus fell 1-0 at home to lowly Benevento before the international break.
Juventus are third, 10 points adrift of leaders Inter Milan, with both teams having 11 games left to play this season.
Ronaldo returns from international duty where his fury at a winner ruled out against Serbia was followed by joy at scoring against Luxembourg.
The Portuguese striker will play his sixth Turin derby, which could be his last, amid speculation of an exit from Turin at the end of the season.
The 36-year-old, Serie A’s top scorer this season, has scored three goals in his previous five derbies, but just once at Torino in his first season back in 2018.
Just six points separate Juventus in third from seventh-placed Lazio in the race for elite European football.
The pressure is on coach Andrea Pirlo with defensive duo Leonardo Bonucci and Merih Demiral both testing positive for Covid-19 after international duty.
Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon will not be available due to his one-match blasphemy ban.
Forward Paulo Dybala has recovered after nearly three months out with a knee injury, but there are suggestions he could be suspended as punishment for attending a lockdown gathering with Arthur Melo at the home of American teammate Weston McKennie.
Torino, one point above the relegation zone, have won just one of their last 29 Serie A matches against Juventus, and that was six years ago.
“Against Torino it will certainly be a battle, because both of us need points,” warned Juventus winger Juan Cuadrado.
“The defeat to Benevento was very difficult to digest,” the Colombian told Sky Sport.
“During the break we worked hard and put fuel in our legs to finish the season in the best possible way.”
Inter Milan are back in action at midtable Bologna after their match before the international break against Sassuolo was postponed because of a Covid-19 outbreak.
Antonio Conte’s side are six points ahead of second-placed AC Milan, who take on 12th-placed Sampdoria.
Inter can count on the return of captain and goalkeeper Samir Handanovic from Covid while Bologna’s Polish goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski has tested positive.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s AC Milan need to improve their home form to keep in the running for a first ‘Scudetto’ since 2011, having not won any of their last five games in all competitions at the San Siro.
Atalanta, in fourth, equal on points with Juventus, host 11th-placed Udinese looking to hold off Napoli, who are at home against basement club Crotone.
Roma, three points behind Napoli travel to eighth-placed Sassuolo, after losing two league games in a row for the first time this season.
Sassuolo will be without their Italian internationals, Gian Marco Ferrari, Manuel Locatelli, Domenico Berardi and Francesco Caputo, “as a precaution” despite their negative tests, after an outbreak on the Italy team.
One to watch: Giuseppe Iachini
Giuseppe Iachini returns to the Fiorentina bench just over four months after being replaced by former Italy coach Cesare Prandelli, who resigned a week ago citing the strain of current football.
‘La Viola’ are 14th, seven points above the relegation zone, before travelling to Genoa, who have not lost at home in eight games.
149 – Lazio striker Ciro Immobile’s Serie A goals
23 – Ronaldo leads the Serie A scorers’ chart
8 – Inter’s league winning run
4 – Juventus’s defeats this season
Fixtures (all times GMT):
AC Milan v Sampdoria (1030), Atalanta v Udinese, Benevento v Parma, Cagliari v Hellas Verona, Genoa v Fiorentina, Lazio v Spezia, Napoli v Crotone, Sassuolo v Roma (all 1300), Torino v Juventus (1600), Bologna v Inter Milan (1845)