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5 things to know about the Italian league

- Associated Press - Thursday, January 23, 2014

MILAN (AP) - Two-time defending champion Juventus will be looking to provisionally extend its lead at the top of the table to 11 points when it visits Lazio on Saturday. Second-placed Roma travels to Hellas Verona the following day.

At the other end of the table there is a relegation clash between Livorno and Sassuolo.

Mid-table AC Milan travels to Cagliari in Clarence Seedorf's third match in charge.

Here are five things to know about the Italian league:

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MILAN'S EURO WOES

AC Milan will be looking to bounce back at Cagliari on Sunday after seeing its hopes of qualifying for Europe next season all but disappear as it was eliminated from the Italian Cup.

Milan was booed off the pitch on Wednesday after losing 2-1 at home to Udinese despite Mario Balotelli's penalty giving it an early lead.

"We have to be honest, we are very far away from the qualifying positions for Europe," Kaka said. "The Italian Cup was much closer. It was the surest way for us.

"It is hard to figure out what happened. Everyone has to have their own reflection now, we must try to figure out what we can give to the team. Then, Clarence (Seedorf) can tell us what to do, provide us with the motivation to pick up the most points in the league and to face up in the Champions League."

The cup match was new coach Seedorf's first loss in charge after beating Hellas Verona in his first game.

Milan is 11th, seven points off the top five.

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UNLUCKY 13?

Juventus also has to pick itself up as it turns its attention back to the league following its Italian Cup exit to Roma.

Defeat will come as something of an odd sensation to the players, as Juventus had won its previous six matches, with its last loss coming against Galatasaray in the Champions League at the beginning of December.

Moreover, it will be looking to continue bettering the club record with a 13th consecutive league victory when it visits Lazio on Saturday.

Coach Antonio Conte rotated his squad for the cup match but most of the regulars are set to return this weekend.

"We've always used the Italian Cup as the opportunity to rotate the side ahead of upcoming fixtures," Conte said. "Everyone needs to develop and feel important. I was happy with the performances of those who have played less this season."

Inter Milan holds the record for most consecutive victories, winning 17 in a row in the 2006-07 season.

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BASTOS BLUNDER

Roma new signing Michele Bastos will be hoping matters improve after a controversial start to his Roma career.

As a smiling Bastos was being presented to the fans ahead of Tuesday's Italian Cup victory over Juventus, he picked up and showed a scarf which had been thrown to him from the crowd, without realizing it carried an insulting message to Roma's bitter city rival Lazio.

Bastos and the club have apologized.

The Brazilian midfielder will be hoping to make his debut at Hellas Verona on Sunday. With Juventus playing the previous day, second-placed Roma could find itself 11 points behind the league leader at kickoff.

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ALL CHANGE

Livorno hosts Sassuolo in a relegation six-pointer on Sunday with its third coach in as many matches.

Davide Nicola was sacked last week after Livorno lost seven of its past eight matches, drawing the other one.

Sporting director Attilio Perotti was appointed but he lasted only a week after protests from the ultras and a dismal 3-0 loss at Roma.

Domenico Di Carlo, who ended his playing career at Livorno, was hired on Tuesday.

Livorno is level on points with last-place Catania. Sassuolo, which has four points more, completes the bottom three.

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TURNING POINT

Inter Milan forward Diego Milito believes a good result at bottom club Catania on Sunday could put an end to the Nerazzurri's miserable streak.

Milito has played two full matches this year since returning from his second serious injury of 2013 and the Argentine is keen now to once again find the back of the net.

"I would love it to be me who scores a goal, but it is important to get a victory against Catania," Milito said. "The squad is working well and we're up for it. We hope we can win. The match could be the turning point."

Inter has lost three of its past four matches in all competitions and has won just one of its past eight league matches.

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