Three matchdays remain in Serie A, and yet there is plenty still to be decided at both ends of the table – not least which side will be crowned champions.

Milan occupy top spot in their quest for a first Scudetto since 2011, but fierce rivals Inter are just two points behind and arguably have an easier set of fixtures to conclude the campaign.

Napoli and Juventus are not officially out of the title race just yet, though they are seven and eight points off first place respectively, therefore requiring a remarkable set of results.

Both Napoli and Juventus are already assured of a top-four finish, but there are several other teams still battling it out for the three remaining European spots.

Venezia appear doomed at the opposite end of the table after losing to fellow strugglers Salernitana on Thursday, with the latter's victory lifting them out of the bottom three – in all, six teams remain in trouble.

But just how will the remaining two and a half weeks of the season unfold? Using the Stats Perform League Prediction Model, we can try to forecast the final standings.

Created by Stats Perform AI using Opta data, the model has analysed the division to assign percentages to potential outcomes for each club.

The model estimates the probability of each match outcome (win, draw or loss) based on teams' attacking and defensive qualities, which considers four years' worth of results.

Weighting is based on recency and the quality of opposition, with the rest of the matches then simulated 10,000 times to calculate the likelihood of each outcome.

Let's take a look...

 

MILAN TO SEE THE JOB THROUGH

Milan still have Hellas Verona (ninth), Atalanta (eighth) and Sassuolo (11th) to face, whereas Inter's final fixtures are against Empoli (14th), Cagliari (18th) and Sampdoria (15th).

However, it is worth noting that if they finish level on points, Milan would be crowned champions by virtue of a superior head-to-read record against their rivals this term.

With that in mind, while Inter are only two points behind, they essentially need to take three more points than Milan over the final three matchdays.

And our model suggests the Rossoneri have a 62 per cent chance of retaining top spot, compared to a 37.7 per cent chance of defending champions Inter overtaking them.

Just to highlight how unlikely it is either Napoli or Juventus will pip the current top two to the summit, they have a 0.2 and 0.1 per cent chance of winning the title respectively.

A ROME ONE-TWO FOR EUROPA LEAGUE?

The Champions League places may now officially be wrapped up, but five teams are still battling it out for the three remaining European berths.

The sides that finish in fifth and sixth, currently occupied by Roma and Lazio, will qualify for the Europa League group stage.

Roma, according to the model, have a 59.1 per cent chance of nailing down fifth place – though if they were to drop to seventh, the Europa Conference League finalists could get into the Europa League by winning UEFA's third-tier competition.

Lazio would take great enjoyment from finishing above their neighbours and have a 36.9 per cent chance of doing so.

The first priority for Maurizio Sarri will be locking down sixth, though, and there is a 46.7 per cent likelihood of achieving that with Fiorentina three points further back.

ATALANTA TO PIP FIORENTINA

While the top six are forecast to remain where they are, our model predicts seventh-placed Fiorentina will miss out to Atalanta in the Europa Conference League play-off position.

After losing three games in a row, La Viola now have a 31.2 per cent chance of staying seventh, compared to 47.6 for Atalanta, whom they are currently level with on 56 points.

Verona are four points further back and that appears to be too big a gap to bridge, with the Gialloblu seemingly certain to remain in eighth.

Indeed, the 80.8 per cent likelihood of Verona finishing in that position is bettered only by the chances of Empoli staying 14th (90.2 per cent) and Venezia remaining bottom (87.4 per cent) given the points margin either side.

VENEZIA AND TWO OTHERS TO DESCEND

Thursday's 2-1 defeat away to Salernitana looks to have spelled the end for Venezia's brief stint back in the top flight as it leaves them seven points from safety. Their chances of escaping the drop sit at 0.1 per cent.

Salernitana still have a 36.2 per cent chance of dropping into the bottom three, but given they face the team directly below them – Cagliari – and Empoli in their next two games, they will surely like those odds.

Another win for Salernitana on Sunday would be massive at the bottom, as such a result will relegate Venezia and potentially Genoa, whom the model gives only a 1.2 per cent likelihood of climbing up to 17th.

Spezia and Sampdoria aren't quite out of the woods yet, but their five-point cushions should be enough to keep them in Serie A. Everything points to Sunday's contest being almost a straight relegation play-off between Salernitana and Cagliari.

The model suggests with a 63.3 per cent probability that Cagliari will go down, but their fate is in their own hands.

Milan moved closer to a first Serie A title triumph in 11 years thanks to a late strike from Rafael Leao in Sunday's 1-0 home win over Fiorentina.

Inter's shock 2-1 loss to Bologna in midweek handed the Scudetto initiative to Milan and the Rossoneri just about took full advantage with this third league victory in a row.

The visitors had lost three games in a row in all competitions but frustrated their table-topping opponents until Leao made the most of an error to fire in an 82nd-minute winner.

That strike was enough as Milan moved five points clear of Inter, who travel to Udinese later on Sunday. Should it come to it, the Rossoneri boast the better head-to-head record.

Stefano Pioli has called on Milan to show "fire in our hearts and ice in our veins" to see out the club's bid for a first Serie A title since 2010-11.

The Rossoneri's late 2-1 win at Lazio last week, coupled with rivals Inter losing to Bologna on Wednesday, leaves Pioli's men two points clear at the Serie A summit with just four games remaining.

Milan are unbeaten in their last 12 league matches  – winning seven of those and drawing five – ahead of Sunday's potentially difficult clash with Fiorentina, who are aiming for their first Serie A double over the Rossoneri since 2000-01.

Speaking ahead of that encounter, Pioli said Milan were fully focused on the threat posed by the Viola, and said his team would need to display their character to end the season as champions.

"It will be a vital game, as will all of our remaining matches," he said. "The best thing for us is to just focus on our next game, as we have always done. 

"This has been our biggest strength. Fire in our hearts and ice in our veins. 

"We're not thinking about our last four games but just about Milan versus Fiorentina. The boys have been focused, determined and generous throughout the week, which we need going into tomorrow's game. 

"Every point is important at this stage of the season. A lot of games will be decided by individual moments, and you need to make these moments swing in your favour." 

Milan have conceded just eight goals in 15 league games since the turn of the year, with only quadruple-chasing Liverpool (six Premier League goals conceded) boasting a better defensive record across the top five European leagues in 2022.

The Rossoneri were not considered title favourites at the outset of the campaign, but while Pioli was pleased with how his "energetic" side had emerged as challengers in a competitive season, he demanded they improve after falling behind in last week's dramatic win over Lazio.

"We're concentrating on doing our job well. It's not time for words, but for actions. I never say that everything will go well, we just hope it goes the way we want," he added.

"I'm not bothered if people outside the team think we deserve it. The important thing is what we are doing; we've overcome various obstacles and we've never been down. 

"We have our limits which we are trying to break and we have some assets that need to be praised. We play energetic football, which will always make it easier to win.

"The objectives of a few teams have changed a few times throughout the course of the season; things change quickly. Serie A is a tough league with a lot of good teams.

"We need to improve our approach to games because we got it wrong ahead of the derby in the Coppa Italia [a 3-0 semi-final loss to Inter] and against Lazio. We've worked on that and we're trying hard to limit this type of error."  

Milan will hope to continue their fine goalscoring record against Fiorentina on Sunday, having scored at least two goals in each of their last three league games against the Viola, not recording a longer such streak since a run of six between 1992 and 1996.

Massimiliano Allegri says he could not ask for any more from his Juventus players after they booked their Coppa Italia final spot with a 3-0 aggregate victory over Fiorentina on Wednesday. 

The Bianconeri claimed a 1-0 win in the first leg last month, and Federico Bernardeschi doubled their advantage in the tie with a fine finish shortly after the half-hour mark in the return fixture. 

Danilo added a second deep into stoppage time at the end of the game as Juve reached their 21st Coppa Italia final – at least five more than any other side in the competition's history. 

They will play Inter in the final at the Stadio Olimpico on May 11 after Simone Inzaghi's side overcame Milan in their last-four tie.  

Juve did not have it all their own way, with Fiorentina taking 17 shots and enjoying 68.3 per cent possession, but Allegri was pleased with how his side bounced back from the disappointing 1-1 draw with Bologna at the weekend. 

"I could not ask for more from these players, as for the last four months it's basically been the same players all the time. They're giving it everything out there," he told Mediaset. 

"We should congratulate the lads, as reaching the final was an objective for the season. It had been a tough few days after the draw with Bologna, when we failed to make the most of many chances. 

"Fiorentina are dangerous with their passing and pace if you give them a chance to run at you, but we did well to create those spaces in attack and defend well. 

"This is football, we suffered and won. Those who came off the bench all did really well, we had a team spirit to reach this final. 

"Now we must prepare for the next game in Serie A and try to recover some players." 

 

Allegri's position as Juve boss has come under scrutiny in recent weeks, with some supporters unimpressed by the club's failure to challenge for the Serie A title. 

While Allegri shares that frustration, he says he has every intention of being in the dugout as they look to launch a title bid next season. 

"Juventus must always challenge to win," he added. "The thing that most disappoints me is losing the head-to-head with Inter, because that is the result that decided the league. 

"Being five games from the end and not being in the Scudetto race does annoy me. It can be motivation for next season, we can learn from that experience and also realise that in football and life you can't always win." 

Juve are next in action on Monday when they visit Sassuolo in Serie A. 

Holders Juventus reached the Coppa Italia final after a 2-0 victory over Fiorentina in their semi-final second leg on Wednesday.

The Bianconeri claimed a 1-0 win in the first leg last month, and they had to work hard to seal their place in next month's final against a Fiorentina side that dominated possession and had almost twice as many shots.

Federico Bernardeschi got them on their way shortly after the half-hour mark, before Danilo added a second deep into stoppage time at the end of the game. 

Massimiliano Allegri's men will face Inter in the final on May 11 at the Stadio Olimpico after the Nerazzurri overcame Milan in their last-four tie.

The best chance of a cagey opening 20 minutes was Dusan Vlahovic's shot from inside the penalty area, which was pawed away by Bartlomiej Dragowski.

The Juve striker should have scored shortly before the half-hour mark, yet Dragowski stood firm to block his attempted chip after he had been played clean through.

Dragowski was at fault for the opener in the 32nd minute, the goalkeeper completely misjudging Alvaro Morata's cross to allow Bernardeschi to volley home from 15 yards after Cristiano Biraghi's header had fallen kindly to him.

Fiorentina finished the first half strongly and they should have gone in at the break level, but Arthur Cabral's powerful drive was straight at Mattia Perin.

Perin kept out Lucas Martinez Quarta's deflected header early in the second half, while at the other end Denis Zakaria cracked an effort against the outside of the post. 

Adrien Rabiot saw a goal ruled out by VAR for offside, although it mattered little in the end as Danilo swept home Juan Cuadrado's cross late on to add gloss to the victory. 

What does it mean? Fiorentina fail to punish Juve

Given they carved out 17 shots to Juve's eight and enjoyed a whopping 68.3 per cent possession, Fiorentina will be bitterly disappointed they did not turn their dominance into goals.

As it is, Juve have now progressed from their last seven Coppa Italia semi-finals, with their last elimination coming in the 2012-13 season against Lazio.

Bernardeschi proves decisive

It was only Bernardeschi's second goal of the season across all competitions, yet that is as many as he had in total across the previous two campaigns for Juve. The forward was also denied a superb assist when Rabiot's late effort from his fine cross was ruled out.

Shot-shy Morata

He did play two key passes before his substitution for Paulo Dybala in the 66th minute, yet Morata left the pitch having failed to take a single shot. The Spain international will need to do more if he is to convince Allegri he should start up front alongside Vlahovic.

What's next?

Juve travel to Sassuolo in Serie A on Monday, a day after Fiorentina visit Salernitana.

Massimiliano Allegri says Juventus do not need to change their style to see the best of Dusan Vlahovic, as the striker prepares to face former club Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia semi-finals.

However, Allegri did acknowledge the Bianconeri must improve their attacking returns after seeing nine Serie A outfits outscore them this season.

After winning the first leg 1-0 in Florence, Juventus, who have progressed from each of their last six Coppa Italia semi-finals, remain among the favourites for a sixth domestic cup triumph in eight seasons, having lifted the trophy in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2021.

The Bianconeri are, though, just the 10th-highest scorers in Serie A despite Vlahovic netting seven goals in 14 appearances in all competitions since his January arrival, having scored 20 in 24 games for his previous employers this term.

Ahead of the Old Lady's decisive cup meeting with Vlahovic's former club, Allegri was adamant Juve did not need to change to accommodate the Serb, but acknowledged improvements were needed.

"Absolutely not," he replied when asked if changes might benefit Vlahovic. "Vlahovic has played 14 games and scored seven goals.

"Right now, we can't play like we did in November or December, because the games weigh more. There is no chance to recover.

"We need to improve the tenth place in the ranking of goals scored, we need to be more concrete.

"In football there is one thing that remains old, but it still counts: the goal difference, which then leads you to win or lose the championships."

Allegri has reached the Coppa Italia final four times as Juventus manager, already more than any other Bianconeri manager in history. His only elimination before the competition's final came in 2018-19's quarter-finals, a 3-0 loss to Atalanta.

The 54-year-old lifted Italy's domestic cup on all four occasions where he reached the final, and says Juve's strong run will count for nothing if they fall short of winning the trophy.

Although he also emphasised the importance of a top-four league finish and said a semi-final win would not "turn around" the season, he noted that reaching a final was a "good goal".

"The Coppa Italia only counts if you win it," he added. "If you lose it, you have failed completely. As for the championship, Juve must now think about finishing in the top four. 

"In early January, no one would have expected Juventus to be five points clear of fifth [Roma] with five games to go. Now we have to be good at defending [against] them.

"We haven't won games in which we played well, we lacked that little bit more to make the leap forward. We have to work on this, and the next year will surely be better.

"Tomorrow's game does not make the season turn around, but it will allow us to go to the final and it would be a good goal."

Juventus have lost only one of their last 25 home games in the Coppa Italia (winning 20 and drawing four). Coincidentally, this was a defeat against Fiorentina in the 2014-15 semi-finals, when Mohamed Salah netted a brace for the Viola and Fernando Llorente scored for the Bianconeri.

Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti conceded the race for the Scudetto was no longer in his side's hands after they fell to a 3-2 loss to Fiorentina.

Dries Mertens cancelled out Nico Gonzalez's first-half opener at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, before Jonathan Ikone and Arthur Cabral put the visitors two goals to the good.

Victor Osimhen pulled one back in the closing stages for Spalletti's side, but his efforts were ultimately in vain as Napoli succumbed to their sixth league loss this season, five of which came at home.

The defeat leaves them level on points with defending champions Inter, who have played a game fewer, and two behind Serie A leaders Milan ahead of the Rossoneri facing Torino on Sunday evening.

With that deficit in mind, a visibly disappointed Spalletti acknowledged to DAZN that the race for the Serie A title was now out of Napoli's control, and they would need favours from others to win a first Scudetto since 1990.

"Yes [it changes the title race], now everything is getting harder," he said. 

"We have no choice but to be professional. Now, we think about winning the next game, even if now it depends on others and not on us."

The Italian also believes the "costly" loss to Fiorentina was undeserved.

"This is a very costly defeat and in some ways undeserved," he added. "Fiorentina played their game and earned the win, but we started strong, then tried to play too long and allowed them to take control of midfield.

"When we conceded the second goal, it all became far more difficult. We have to take some blame for what happened, but it's so disappointing because the fans, the attitude of the whole team throughout the week was the right one."

As for Napoli's disappointing home record, Spalletti claims he does not see a pattern within their home reverses, which he said should be evaluated separately.

"The matches must be evaluated game-by-game," he added.

"I don't see anything similar to the other games, I don't see a sure problem."

Napoli will look to make amends when they host Roma in Serie A on Monday, after Fiorentina became the first side to beat them twice on their own turf in one season since Lazio in 2014-15 (Fiorentina also eliminated Napoli from the Coppa Italia in Naples).

Simone Inzaghi acknowledged Inter's first-half performance against Fiorentina was "insufficient" as he revealed how the defending Serie A champions' stuttering form was weighing on them.

Inter have now won just twice in nine league matches after they were held 1-1 at home to Fiorentina on Saturday.

Lucas Torreira had the Nerazzurri staring at a potential third defeat in four league games at San Siro, before Denzel Dumfries nodded in an equaliser.

That was only enough to rescue a point, though, and Inter have now drawn five of their past nine matches – as many as in their previous 27 in the competition.

According to head coach Inzaghi, the damage was done before the break, when Fiorentina outshot their hosts 11-6.

"We didn't take the right approach," he told DAZN. "I'm not without fault and I'm the first to take responsibility for what happens.

"The guys did everything they could in the second half, but we weren't very good technically and we had to do better.

"The first half was insufficient, because a team like ours has to do more. In the second half, we did better and we created more chances after the goal."

 

The improvement in the second period was limited, given Fiorentina's six shots after the break were worth 1.2 expected goals to the 0.8 xG from Inter's seven attempts.

But Inzaghi suggested any issues in the closing stages were more due to the psychological impact of their poor recent results.

"It's normal that this is a bad moment of form for us," he said. "And after a while, the fact that we've taken just seven points from our last seven matches began to weigh on us.

"I am absolutely not afraid, but the team feels more responsibility.

"In November, December and early January, we were perfect; now, we're experiencing a decline, but we must try to remain calm and keep working."

Inter's hopes of a second straight Scudetto took another hit as they were held 1-1 by Fiorentina in Milan.

The reigning Serie A champions have now won just two of their past nine league matches after their stuttering form continued on Saturday.

Coach Simone Inzaghi had suggested Inter have deserved more from recent performances, but he might struggle to argue his case following a match in which Fiorentina initially lacked cutting edge but merited their lead through Lucas Torreira.

Although Denzel Dumfries soon responded with a leveller, it was not followed by a winner, meaning Inter have taken just four points from their past four games at San Siro.

The Nerazzurri knew they needed a result after Napoli's win earlier in the day, yet they were on the back foot until late in the first half when Pietro Terracciano had to be sharp off his line to block from Edin Dzeko.

Terracciano was grateful for an offside flag against Lautaro Martinez after Dumfries' deflected shot gave the forward a simple finish, and an incisive move early in the second half saw Fiorentina in front instead.

Gaetano Castrovilli fizzed a pass into the feet of Nico Gonzalez, who skipped past Ivan Perisic and squared for Torreira to score his second goal in as many matches.

Inter were behind for just over five minutes before Perisic floated a cross towards the back post, where Dumfries arrived to nod in.

A penalty awarded in Martinez's favour was overturned following a VAR check as the hosts were frustrated again, and Inter ultimately needed Samir Handanovic to produce a vital stoppage-time save from Jonathan Ikone to preserve a point.

Manchester United's hopes of silverware this season are officially over and focus is now turning towards the 2022-23 campaign.

The Red Devils are left focusing on their top-four battle in the Premier League following elimination to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last 16 this week.

That has surely ended Ralf Rangnick's hopes of landing the managerial position full time, though it remains to be seen who will be in the Old Trafford hot seat come next term.


TOP STORY – UNITED RAMP UP MANAGERIAL SEARCH

The likes of Mauricio Pochettino, Erik ten Hag and Thomas Tuchel have each been touted as contenders to replace Rangnick, but another name may now be in the frame.

According to Spanish outlet Fichajes, Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui is also being considered for one of the top positions in world football.

Lopetegui has previously managed Real Madrid and the Spain national team and is in his third season with Sevilla, whom he remains under contract with until 2024.


ROUND-UP

- Newcastle United intend to splash the cash when the transfer window reopens at the end of the season and, according to Fichajes, Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar is in their sights. The Brazil international was jeered by his own supporters during last week's win against Bordeaux.

- After two years with Tottenham, Fabrizio Romano claims that left-back Sergio Reguilon could be on his way back to Spain in the coming months. Barcelona are said to be monitoring his situation, while Madrid have a buy-back clause of around €40million.

- It could be a busy transfer window for Madrid, who have also been strongly linked with PSG forward Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund's in-demand striker Erling Haaland. However, Goal reports that Los Blancos are losing hope of beating Manchester City to the signature of the latter.

- Man City midfielder Rodri has another three years to run on his contract, but The Telegraph suggests that the Premier League leaders are eager to tie the midfielder down to an even longer deal, with talks between the two parties ongoing.

- La Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Nikola Milenkovic is on the radar of Inter and Man Utd. Inter are said to have made the Fiorentina and Serbia defender one of their primary targets, while United had scouts present to watch him against Bologna last week.

Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi believes his side's performances have deserved more than their recent returns.

Reigning Serie A champions Inter have slipped to third in the table, albeit with a game in hand, four points adrift of leaders Milan heading into the weekend's fixtures.

Inter have managed just two wins in their last eight top-flight games after snatching a late 1-1 draw at Torino last time out.

The Nerazzurri were also eliminated at the Champions League last-16 stage following a 2-1 loss on aggregate to Liverpool, with Inter dominating large parts of the two-leg tie.

Inzaghi claimed the Nerazzurri's performances have not been befitting of their results ahead of Saturday's clash with Fiorentina.

"Without a doubt, there is a feeling in this period of having collected less than what we probably deserved," he told InterTV on Friday.

"But there is the right desire, the boys have worked very well, so there is a great desire to get back on the pitch."

 

With Inter out of the Champions League, Inzaghi's side now have more time to prepare for the crunch part of the Serie A season and the Nerazzurri boss is thankful for the extra days of preparation.

"Certainly being able to work more days to prepare for the match helps a lot to work on situations that did not go well and on details," he continued.

"But we are Inter. We have made progress in the Champions League, we are still in the running for the Coppa Italia. We have played more often because we have been competitive throughout the year."

Fellow Serie A title-chasers Milan and Napoli are in action on the same day when Inter host Fiorentina, who have lost 16 of their last 19 league games against the Nerazzurri.

Inter have also gained 32 points from 14 top-flight home games, more than any other team, but Inzaghi expects a tough task against's Vincenzo Italiano's men.

"We find a fit team, which is doing excellent in the league, with a coach who gives brilliant ideas and precise tactical ideas to his team," Inzaghi added.

Massimiliano Allegri called on Dusan Vlahovic to be more unpredictable after his limited impact for Juventus on his return to former club Fiorentina.

Emotions were high as Vlahovic received a hostile welcome from the home fans back at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final.

Vlahovic, who followed a well-worn path in trading Fiorentina for hated rivals Juve in January for an initial fee of €70million, saw his influence restricted in a pulsating game.

Fiorentina dominated possession and wasted several chances to take the lead, while at the other end Vlahovic registered just 36 touches, the lowest of any Juve player to start and finish the game, with only two of those coming in the opposition box.

He was thwarted by Pietro Terracciano with one of his two shots, but the Fiorentina goalkeeper could do nothing as Juve clinched a 1-0 victory in stoppage time, the hosts punished for their profligacy when Lorenzo Venuti inadvertently deflected Juan Cuadrado's cross into his own net.

That meant an ineffectual performance from Vlahovic was immaterial, with Allegri focusing on his strengths while delivering a pointer to the man who scored 33 times in Serie A in 2021, equalling the competition's calendar-year record set by Cristiano Ronaldo – the man he was bought to replace in Turin.

"Vlahovic is very good at playing with the team, we have more of a link now between the midfielders and forwards, so that too is progress," Allegri told Mediaset.

"It's important to move around and be more unpredictable, as the simplest and toughest thing in football is to avoid marking."

"We have to congratulate Fiorentina on a good performance," he added. 

"We suffered with two counter-attacks in the first half, again in the second, and fortunately we didn't concede because they made mistakes.

"I liked the way we were organised today and only ran risks on counter-attacks. We knew Fiorentina liked to overlap on the flanks and put crosses in, so there wouldn't be a threat through the centre.

"We should've kept the ball in their half more, but I saw progress."

Dusan Vlahovic was kept at bay by old club Fiorentina but Juventus claimed a dramatic late 1-0 win in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final.

Emotions were high as Vlahovic made his return to Florence following his January transfer for an initial fee of €70million, the Serbian talisman frequently whistled by a raucous home crowd.

The noise at the Stadio Artemio Franchi inspired Fiorentina, who were the better side throughout a pulsating contest, and they would be taking an advantage to the second leg in Turin had Jonathan Ikone not spurned a pair of gilt-edged chances.

They were ultimately made to pay for their profligacy in stoppage time when Juan Cuadrado's wicked right-wing delivery cannoned off an unfortunate Lorenzo Venuti and over the line to give Juve the advantage going into next month's return leg in Turin.

 

What do Dusan Vlahovic, Dodi Lukebakio and Gaetan Laborde all have in common?

As of this moment, not much – aside from having been touted as the next Newcastle United signing. But if Vlahovic gets a goal for Juventus against Fiorentina on Wednesday, he will join Wolfsburg's Lukebakio (who joined on loan from Hertha Berlin) and Rennes' Laborde (who signed from Montpellier) as the only players in Europe's top five leagues to score for and against the same team this season.

Vlahovic said his feelings were "a bit mixed" as he contemplated facing the Viola at the Artemio Franchi, where he spent four years after joining as an 18-year-old from Partizan. "It's a bit strange," he told DAZN, to prepare for a game against the team for whom he scored 33 times in Serie A in 2021, equalling the competition's calendar-year record set by Cristiano Ronaldo – the man he was bought to replace in Turin.

The sentiment among Fiorentina's faithful will be a bit more, well, partisan. Vlahovic's January transfer, completed on his 22nd birthday for an initial fee of €70million, sparked levels of fury among the fan base arguably not seen since the Roberto Baggio riots of the early 1990s. Fiorentina ultras vented their anger not just at the player, but at the club itself, lambasting president Rocco Commisso for doing deals with "the ultimate evil" after previously promising never to sell their best players to the hated Bianconeri.

Meanwhile, Vlahovic has got on with the day job of scoring goals, and with three in his past two games, Juve are beginning to hope of a surprise late challenge for the Champions League and Serie A titles. Before then comes the small matter of a Coppa Italia semi-final in Florence, and the chance for Vlahovic to take a step closer to a first trophy outside Serbia by knocking out his old employers.

And he wouldn't be the first Juve player to return to haunt Fiorentina...

Roberto Baggio

Baggio isn't the sole reason Fiorentina don't like Juventus, but ask someone to explain the rivalry and his name will likely come up pretty quickly.

The pony-tailed posterboy of Italian football developed into a star in his five years in Tuscany even before his rise to global fame at the 1990 World Cup on home soil. It was in that same year that Juve signed him from Fiorentina for an approximate fee of £8million, smashing the world transfer record and sparking furious Fiorentina fans to take to the streets in protest.

Baggio claimed he never really wanted to leave and, when he returned to face them in Bianconeri colours on April 7, he refused to take a penalty ostensibly out of concern that goalkeeper Gianmatteo Mareggini would know where he would put it. Luigi Di Biagio stepped up instead, missed, and Juve lost. Picking up a Fiorentina scarf didn't help Baggio to endear himself to the Juve faithful, either.

Still, over the next five years, Baggio would fire them to Serie A, Coppa Italia and UEFA Cup glory and become the first Italian since Paolo Rossi in 1982 to win the Ballon d'Or (it would be 13 more years before another, Fabio Cannavaro, did the same).

Giorgio Chiellini

If Baggio's transfer sparked a riot, Giorgio Chiellini's permanent move to Juve in 2005 prompted more of a quiet grumble. He spent 2004-05 with the Viola after they and Juve reached a co-ownership deal, so it was always anticipated the suits in Turin might stump up the full amount for his registration rights.

Of course, watching Chiellini win nine Scudetti, five Coppa Italia crowns and Euro 2020 as part of a glittering Azzurri career has left plenty of Fiorentina fans with an unshakeable sense of 'what if'.

In December 2005, Chiellini started against Fiorentina in a frankly unfair back four that also featured Lillian Thuram, Fabio Cannavaro and Gianluca Zambrotta, with Juve claiming a 2-1 win thanks to Mauro Camoranesi's 88th-minute goal. 

He's since gone on to face Fiorentina 17 times in Serie A, losing just twice. But, more importantly, Chiellini has become a Juve great – he is just two games away from putting himself third behind Alessandro Del Piero and Gianluigi Buffon on the club's all-time appearances list.

Federico Bernardeschi

Bernardeschi may have moved out of season, but that didn't stop Fiorentina fans venting their anger in response to his €40m switch. They hung a banner outside the stadium that made their displeasure fairly clear. It read: "Who wouldn't like to spit in your face… you s***** hunchback".

His move to the Old Lady came after a something of a breakthrough season as he scored 11 times in Serie A – that was an improvement of nine from the two he'd got the previous campaign.

Unsurprisingly he was jeered and targeted by banners on his first return to Florence in February 2018, though Bernardeschi had the last laugh, curling a free-kick in as Juve won 2-0. It's fair to say he didn't abstain from celebrating, letting out a huge scream.

"I celebrated when I scored because I believe a professional should respect the fans. I've always been grateful to Fiorentina, and always will, for the way they looked after me and helped me develop, but I made a career choice and now I play for another team," he told Sky Sport Italia at the time.

But Bernardeschi's struggled to have the same kind of importance to Juve, rather being used as more of a utility and back-up player, which is reflected by the fact he's scored just eight league goals for the club.

Federico Chiesa

If Fiorentina fans are upset on Wednesday, just wait until next season when Federico Chiesa is fit again and lining up alongside Vlahovic. The pair appeared together 41 times for the Viola before Chiesa's October 2020 departure for Turin.

Chiesa, who is out for the rest of the season following damage to his anterior cruciate ligament, will be a permanent Juve player in 2022-23. For now, remarkably, he is merely on loan from Fiorentina.

Such deals that appear to favour the buying club are not uncommon in Serie A, but Fiorentina supporters could be forgiven for being furious as their club again accommodated the transfer of a star player to their bitter rivals.

Chiesa – the son of former Fiorentina forward Enrico – dazzled in his final full season in Florence, with 11 goals and six assists, and has done likewise for Juve following a slightly tricky start. At the time of his injury – before Vlahovic's arrival – he was the Bianconeri's standout performer.

Dusan Vlahovic will always be grateful to Fiorentina and is calm ahead of his first return to Florence, according to Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri.

The Serbia international joined Juve for an initial €70million free in January, bringing an end to a three-and-a-half-year stay at Stadio Artemio Franchi.

Vlahovic had previously turned down the offer of a new contract with Fiorentina, forcing the club's hand somewhat as he had just 18 months to run on his existing deal.

After reportedly rejecting proposals from Premier League sides Arsenal, Tottenham and Newcastle United among others, Vlahovic instead opted for Serie A rivals Juventus.

Having also lost Federico Bernardeschi and Federico Chiesa to Juve in recent years, Vlahovic's choice of club did not go down well with Fiorentina's devoted supporters.

The forward's home is reported to have been under surveillance in the days leading up to the transfer, while some fans took to the streets to protest.

And in an open letter published in January, Fiorentina fans labelled Serie A top scorer Vlahovic "a coward" for joining Juve.

Ahead of Wednesday's Coppa Italia semi-final first leg, Fiorentina released a statement asking their fans to avoid derogatory and racist chants aimed towards the striker.

Allegri did not confirm whether Vlahovic would start against his former side, but he expects the 22-year-old to perform well regardless of the reception he receives.

"I believe in the intelligence and culture of the Florentine fans," Allegri said at Tuesday's pre-match news conference. 

"Vlahovic will always be grateful to everyone in Florence, society and the environment, who raised him and allowed him to arrive at Juventus. 

"He is calm. It's normal. He's a 22-year-old boy who returns to an environment where he grew up and gave him the opportunity to go to Juventus. 

"It is normal there is emotion. For him it will still be a particular match, but it is serene and so he must remain calm, otherwise he would never play against Fiorentina again.

"There are steps to be taken for the boy to mature."

Vlahovic matched Cristiano Ronaldo's high mark of the past 60 years in scoring 33 Serie A goals in a single calendar year when doing so in 2021.

He has carried that form with him to Turin, his four goals at least three more than any Juve team-mate since his debut against Verona on February 6.

Indeed, Vlahovic scored the fastest debut goal in Champions League history last week with his strike just 32 seconds into the 1-1 last-16 first-leg draw with Villarreal.

Should he score again in midweek, Vlahovic would become the third player in Europe's top five leagues after Dodi Lukebakio (Wolfsburg) and Gaetan Laborde (Montpellier) to net for and against any one team in all competitions this season.

While Allegri is pleased with the Serbia international's instant impact, however, he accepts there is room for improvement in other departments, with Juve winning just one of their past four games.

"We need to improve something else," he said. "We have conceded very avoidable goals, and it means that after scoring and everything seems to be done, we relax a bit. 

"In the last few games, we slept on goals, so we need to reactivate our attention, because when we lose fear, we become dangerous; not perceiving danger becomes a problem. 

"We could have conceded goals but not in those situations. From now until the end of the season, conceding few goals means reaching the top four."

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