Italian Cup offers Serie A clubs a chance to improve dismal season

Rome, April 21 (Inditop) A disappointed Juventus look to overcome a 2-1 deficit when they host gritty Lazio Wednesday in a second-leg semi- final of the Italian Cup.

In Thursday’s other semi-final, the task will be harder for Serie A leaders Inter Milan, who welcome Sampdoria after a 3-0 defeat in the first leg.

Although it is often considered a second-rate trophy compared to the Serie A scudetto, the Italian Cup is good enough to whet the appetites of those teams who have missed the goals they had set for the season.

Juventus are a case in point as they in March were eliminated from the Champions League and last weekend bid farewell to their scudetto dreams as a 1-1 home draw with Inter kept them 10 points behind the leaders with just six games left.

If they fail to win the cup, the season will only yield them a berth in the next Champions League, a goal that all of their fans took for granted when the Serie A started.

In the first leg played in early March, Lazio rallied to reverse an opening goal from Marco Marchionni and are currently in great form after a rather bad period.

The Rome side lately beat Roma 4-2 in a spectacular city derby and at the weekend stunned in-form Genoa 1-0.

They lie five points below sixth place, which grants participation in next season’s Europa League, which takes over from the UEFA Cup, but could qualify for the tournament by winning the home cup.

The qualification would be granted also if they lost a possible final with Inter, who are virtually certain to play the Champions League.

“We’ll have to be very concentrated because Lazio are going through a good moment,” Marchionni said. “We come from the draw with Inter, we showed that we are alive (drawing with 10 men) and we want to secure the final.

“The games with Lazio are always very difficult because against us they find further energies. Even though there are six (Serie A) games left and no one knows what can happen, unfortunately there is only the Italian Cup left for us and we must focus on this task to give Juve their 10th trophy.”

Sampdoria have earned four cup badges like Lazio, one less than Inter, and have good chances to improve their tally thanks to the wide lead from the home leg.

The side from Genoa lie safe at mid-table and could secure an Europa League place already by reaching the final, provided their opponents are Juve, who have all but secured a Champions League berth.

Giampaolo Pazzini scored a brace after Antonio Cassano’s opener in the home leg, but the wide lead could not be enough against the Italian champions, who are known for their impressive resilience and wouldn’t mind sewing two badges on their jerseys, as they did in 2006.