With title nearly certain, Juve aims for undefeated season

AC Milan players celebrate their 1-0 win at the end of the Serie A soccer match between AC Milan and Sassuolo, at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, Saturday, March 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo, center, struggles for the ball with Napoli's Kevin Malcuit, left, and Napoli's Allan during the Serie A soccer match between Napoli and Juventus, at the San Paolo stadium in Naples, Italy, Sunday, March 3, 2019. (Ciro Fusco/ANSA via AP)
Cagliari's Leonardo Pavoletti , right, kicks the ball during the Serie A soccer match between Cagliari and Inter Milan at Sardegna Arena Stadium in Cagliari, Italy, Friday, March 1, 2019. (Fabio Murru/ANSA via AP)
Juventus' Emre Can, left, and Napoli's Lorenzo Insigne vie for the ball during the Serie A soccer match between Napoli and Juventus, at the San Paolo stadium in Naples, Italy, Sunday, March 3, 2019. (Cesare Abbate/ANSA via AP)
Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo takes on Napoli defense during the Serie A soccer match between Napoli and Juventus, at the San Paolo stadium in Naples, Italy, Sunday, March 3, 2019. (Ciro Fusco/ANSA via AP)

ROME — With a 16-point lead and 12 matches to play, only a complete breakdown could prevent Juventus from clinching a record-extending eighth straight Serie A title.

Even if second-place Napoli wins all of its remaining matches, Juventus can afford to lose four of its games — which seems highly unlikely considering that the Bianconeri have yet to lose this season.

At this point, after a 2-1 win at Napoli on Sunday, Juventus' main domestic goal is completing an undefeated season after winning 23 and drawing three of its opening 26 matches.

"Having a 16-point advantage is important," Juventus midfielder Emre Can said. "We still have a lot of matches ahead of us, and we have to concentrate on winning them all."

Can, who scored the second goal against Napoli, put together one of his best performances of the season.

"Slowly, slowly I'm getting to my best level," Can said. "I'm working hard for this."


Cristiano Ronaldo has gone three straight matches without scoring — two in Serie A and one in the Champions League.

Still, Ronaldo was a factor in the win over Napoli, playing a part in the red card shown to Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret in the first half.

Ronaldo has played in all 26 Serie A matches this season but he could be rested during Friday's game against Udinese, with Juventus desperate to overcome a 2-0 first-leg loss to Atletico Madrid in a Champions League match four days later.

Ronaldo has scored 19 goals, tied with Sampdoria's Fabio Quagliarella atop the Serie A chart.

Off the field, Ronaldo is facing a rape allegation in the United States.

Kathryn Mayorga, an American woman, filed a civil lawsuit in Nevada in September claiming Ronaldo raped her in his Las Vegas hotel room in 2009. Police reopened an investigation into the allegation at her request. Ronaldo has denied any wrongdoing.


Only one point separates third-place AC Milan from fourth-place Inter Milan as the crosstown rivals duel to remain in the Champions League places ahead of the city derby in two weeks.

Roma is three points behind Inter in fifth after getting beaten by Lazio 3-0 in the Rome derby on Saturday.

The top four finishers qualify for the Champions League.

"It's going to be a sprint but I see both of them qualifying," said Alberto Zaccheroni, a former coach of both Milan clubs.

Milan has the momentum with a nine-match unbeaten run and four straight wins, while Inter has failed to win its last two matches — losing 2-1 at Cagliari on Friday — amid a contract extension standoff with Mauro Icardi, its top striker.


More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports


Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AndrewDampf

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