Juventus consolidated second place in Serie A with Sunday’s 2-0 win over sinking Cremonese, while yet another injury forced Paul Pogba out of his first competitive start in over a year.
Nicolo Fagioli and Gleison Bremer netted the crucial goals which moved Juve three points ahead of third-placed Inter Milan and strengthed their hopes of Champions League football next season.
Massimiliano Allegri’s side are eight points ahead of AC Milan in fifth but their top four ambitions hinge on a tribunal ruling on alleged illicit transfer activity later this month.
Last month Juve had a 15-point deduction inflicted in January revoked, with Italy’s top sporting court asking the Italian Football Federation’s court of appeal to revise their original decision.
There is the serious risk of a new points punishment which could knock them out of the top four.
It has been a turbulent season for Juve and no-one has more personified that more than Pogba, who was substituted 23 minutes into Sunday’s match in Turin and left the field with his jersey covering his face to hide his dismay.
He had pulled up in agony after putting in a routine cross before sinking to the turf and getting on-pitch treatment on his left thigh.
“We’re all disappointed, not least because he was playing quite well. It’s said because he’s made a lot of sacrifices to come back,” said Allegri to DAZN.
“Paul is a man… he has big enough shoulders. There’s always a risk when you’ve gone a year without playing, more so when you start the match.”
Pogba has missed a huge chunk of the season following his return from Manchester United last summer after suffering a serious injury to his right knee pre-season.
He initially elected to not to go under the knife in a bid to make the World Cup in Qatar.
However, despite later changing his mind, Pogba didn’t recover in time to play for France who lost their crown as world champions in a thrilling final with Argentina.
Poor Pogba –
He returned to action at the end of February and has made a series of appearances as a substitute as he tried to recover full fitness, with a right thigh injury in March slowing his progress.
Pogba’s previous competitive start had been in United’s 4-0 hammering at the hands of Liverpool in April last year, when he went off injured early in the first half and did not play again that season.
Cremonese have three games to earn survival but have their work cut out as they are six points behind Spezia who are just outside the drop zone.
Monza claimed another big scalp in their dream debut Serie A season with their 2-0 win over newly-crowned champions Napoli.
Goals in each half from Dany Mota and former Napoli striker Andrea Petagna were enough for Monza to add Luciano Spalletti’s side to a list of beaten teams which also includes Juve and Inter Milan.
Their fourth win in an unbeaten run of seven matches has Monza ninth, level on 49 points with Fiorentina who beat Udinese 2-0.
Defeat makes little difference to Napoli as they already sealed their first league title since 1990 earlier this month.
Torino are also on 49 points in 10th after beating Verona 1-0 in the day’s early match and sending their opponents into the relegation zone.
Earlier Roma’s chances of Champions League football faded with a 0-0 draw at Bologna ahead of their Europa League semi-final return with Leverkusen on Thursday.
Roma, who are six points off the top four in Italy, lead 1-0 from the first leg as Jose Mourinho aims to reach his second straight European final after winning the Europa Conference League last season.
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