Morata faces Juve competition as champions target top spot

Alvaro Morata has been warned he won’t be guaranteed a starting place at Juventus in spite of injuries as the champions look to go top of Serie A for the first time this season.

Spain international laid the groundwork for a return to form by scoring a brace in a 3-0 rout of Inter Milan in the first leg of their Italian Cup semi-final in midweek.   -  REUTERS

Alvaro Morata has been warned he won’t be guaranteed a starting place at Juventus in spite of injuries as the champions look to go top of Serie A for the first time this season.

Spain international Morata had fallen out of favour with coach Massimiliano Allegri but laid the groundwork for a return to form by scoring a brace in a 3-0 rout of Inter Milan in the first leg of their Italian Cup semi-final in midweek.

Opportunity

With fellow striker Mario Mandzukic unavailable for Sunday’s trip to Chievo after being ruled out for a month through injury, Morata now has the chance to nail down a regular starting spot in what is a crucial month of February for the league and Cup champions, who also host Bayern Munich in three weeks’ time.

Victory away to Chievo would see Juve, currently second at two points behind leaders Napoli, go top of the pile at least until Napoli’s later game at home to Empoli.

Plethora of options

But Allegri warned Morata won’t be the only striker in contention to partner Argentinian sensation Paulo Dybala, who has hit 12 league goals so far to become one of the first names on Allegri’s team sheet.

With three goals in nine appearances, Simone Zaza has the second best goals average at the club and Allegri said Saturday:

“Against Inter, Alvaro showed great responsibility to get us off the mark with a penalty, although in training he’s been finding the net a lot more for the past two weeks.

“Zaza is the striker (outwith Dybala) who has the highest goals average so in light of Mandzukic’s absence there will be space for everyone.

“There’s a lot of competition in the squad, everyone wants to play so whoever gets the chance has to go out and do well, even more so because we’re only two points behind Napoli and tomorrow, even for a short time, we can go top for the first time this season. This has to be our objective.”

Win streak

Juventus are looking for their 12th consecutive win at the Flying Donkeys, who have won just once in their last five games and are still smarting from the loss of top striker Alberto Paloschi.

Paloschi hit eight goals in 21 appearance for Chievo but was snapped up by Premier League side Swansea for a reported 10.5million euros (GBP 8million) in midweek.

Chievo coach Rolando Maran said: “It’s been a very turbulent week, especially in terms of the transfer market. But that’s all part of the game. He (Paloschi) is a great player who left his mark here at the club.

“It’s a great opportunity for him and we wish him all the best.”

He added: “Juventus are doing really well, just look at the statistics. We have to go out and give it 200 per cent, that’s the only way you can turn the formbook on its head.”

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