Fired-up Buffon set to overtake Maldini as Juve eye nine in a row
Gianluigi Buffon is ready to add another landmark achievement in his incredible career when Juventus face local rivals Torino on Saturday, with the former Italy captain expected to become Serie A's all-time record appearance maker.
Italian media report that Buffon will take the field at the Allianz Stadium in place of Wojciech Szczesny and set a new league record of 648 appearances -- one more than AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini -- some 25 years after making his league debut for Parma and almost exactly 19 years after joining Juventus.
The reports come days after Buffon, 42, and fellow stalwart Giorgio Chiellini signed one-year contract extensions that will keep them both at Juve until the end of next season.
"The truth is that I'm still playing because I feel good, I'm competitive and also because I know I can get better," Buffon said during a live interview on Instagram on Thursday.
"When you have room for improvement, you have that fire inside you that means you're not satisfied with yourself."
The landmark would be especially sweet for Buffon following his miserable season at Paris Saint-Germain, which sparked rumours of retirement before he returned home last summer.
December's 2-1 win at Sampdoria crowned him Juve's record Serie A appearance maker, and he also holds the appearance record for his national team, with 176 caps between 1997-2018, winning the 2006 World Cup.
A 10th league title with Juve is on the cards, and he still has a chance of winning the one trophy that has alluded him throughout his stellar career -- the Champions League.
Should coach Maurizio Sarri make that decision he will give Buffon his first league start since December at a crucial weekend in the title race, with stubborn Lazio refusing to let go of Juve's coattails.
The 'Old Lady' are four points ahead of Lazio, who take on Europe-chasing AC Milan right after the Turin derby with the league's leading scorer Ciro Immobile and fellow forward Felipe Caicedo suspended.
- Juve firepower -
Juve meanwhile will be able to draw on Paulo Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo, authors of stunning goals in Tuesday's 3-1 win at Genoa, ready for a Torino side in the middle of an alarming slump.
Moreno Longo's side have lost seven of their last nine league matches and could yet be dragged into serious relegation trouble even though they are six points clear of the drop zone.
Atalanta continue to enchant fans and on Thursday practically guaranteed a return to the Champions League next season.
Gian Piero Gasperini's fourth-placed side beat Napoli 2-0 to move 15 points clear of their opponents and crucially 12 ahead of Roma, who are fifth but in crisis after a dismal 2-0 home defeat to lowly Udinese.
Atalanta travel to mid-table Cagliari on Sunday on a seven-match league winning streak while Napoli host Roma with both teams hoping to hold off those eyeing their places in the Europa League.
Gennaro Gattuso's side will surely be favourites against a Roma side whose performance against Udinese was widely reported as being described "shameful" by club president James Pallotta.
The defeat was the latest in a miserable 2020 for the capital club, who were close to being sold to American billionaire Dan Friedkin just before the coronavirus pandemic battered Italy, but are now in limbo after the deal collapsed.
On the pitch Roma have won just six of their 16 matches in all competitions this calendar year and coach Paulo Fonseca admitted he was "worried" about his team following Thursday's awful display, saying that the problem was "mental".
Both Napoli and Roma will be looking over their shoulders at Milan and Hellas Verona, who are in good form and ready to punish any slip-ups.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Juventus v Torino (1515), Sassuolo v Lecce (1730), Lazio v AC Milan (1945)
Inter Milan v Bologna (1515), Brescia v Hellas Verona, Cagliari v Atalanta, Parma v Fiorentina, Sampdoria v SPAL, Udinese v Genoa (all 1730), Napoli v Roma (1945)
© 2020 AFP