Soccer-Inter could scupper Juve's Champions League qualifying hopes

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: Coppa Italia - Semi Final Second Leg - Juventus v Inter Milan

By Peter Hall

(Reuters) - Inter Milan may have clinched their first Serie A title in 11 years but Antonio Conte's side still have something to play for this season -- stopping Juventus reaching the Champions League.

Inter travel to Turin on Saturday knowing a victory over the 'Old Lady' could result in what would have been unthinkable for nine-time reigning champions Juve at the start of the campaign - finishing outside the Champions League qualification places.

Knocked out of Europe's elite competition in the last-16 for the second season in a row, Juventus have not fared much better domestically having failed to challenge for the title and now needing help from others to finish in the top four.

A first season out of the Champions League for Juve since 2012-13 could be confirmed this weekend should Atalanta, AC Milan and Napoli all win and champions Inter hammer the final nail into the Turin side's coffin at the Juventus Stadium.

Conte may have won three Serie A titles as the Turin side's coach between 2011 and 2014 and captained the club as a player, but the fiery Italian is not one to offer favours and will relish causing his former side more problems.

There is certainly no love lost between Conte and Juve. After an Italian Cup match in February, he was forced to apologise after making a middle finger gesture in the direction of Juventus president Andrea Agnelli.

NO LET-UP

There has been no letting up from Inter since they clinched the title two weeks ago, with Conte's side scoring eight goals in their two subsequent wins.

"We have to continue as we have done this season," full back Achraf Hakimi told Inter TV. "We must prove that we are the Italian champions on Saturday.

"It will be important for our fans to beat Juventus. They will want us to win."

Along with having to face a side unbeaten in their last 20 league matches, Juve's other problem is that their top-four rivals have found form at the right time.

Second-placed Atalanta, on 75 points, are three clear of Juve with two games to go and are unbeaten in their last 10 league matches ahead of Saturday's trip to Genoa.

Milan, level on points with Atalanta, have won their last three in a row, including a 3-0 success at Juventus last weekend, and host lowly Cagliari on Sunday.

Napoli, who are fourth a point ahead of Juve, have enjoyed a fantastic end to the season too, easing the pressure on coach Gennaro Gattuso, but face a tricky trip to Fiorentina on Sunday.

(Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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