Ronaldo’s Juve ready to seal Serie A before Ajax decider

Milan: Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus head to SPAL on Saturday needing just a point to wrap up an eighth consecutive Serie A title in record time before their crucial Champions League decider against Ajax in Turin next week.

Ronaldo returned from injury to score a precious away goal for Juventus in their 1-1 Champions League quarter-final, the first leg draw in Amsterdam on Wednesday, and the 34-year-old can claim his first Italian league title to add to his two in Spain with Real Madrid and three with Manchester United.

It would be a 28th trophy in four countries for the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, a haul which includes five Champions League, and the Euro 2016 title with Portugal. Juventus have a 20-point advantage on second-placed Napoli and a draw would seal their 35th ‘Scudetto’ with six games to spare — the earliest any team has ever sealed Serie A — thanks to their superior head-to-head record over Carlo Ancelotti’s side.

SPAL, 16th and just four points above the drop zone, had eased their relegation fears with three consecutive wins that included victories over Champions League-chasing Lazio and Roma, but lost last weekend at Cagliari. Leonardo Semplici dogged side also have history against them, as they have beaten Juventus just once in their history, way back in 1957.

Given the relative weakness of the weekend’s opposition, coach Massimiliano Allegri may not want to risk Ronaldo ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League decider and could rotate his side. Forwards Paulo Dybala and Douglas Costa came off the bench at Ajax ahead of highly-rated teenager Moise Kean, who had scored five goals in as many games for Juventus. All three could start against SPAL. Leonardo Bonucci looks set to work overtime with defenders Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Martin Caceres all out injured.

“Let’s close down the championship on Saturday,” urged Bonucci. Second-placed Napoli travel to bottom club Chievo looking for a boost after their demoralising 2-0 Europa League quarter-final, first leg defeat at Arsenal. Carlo Ancelotti’s side are without a win in three games and next week host Arsenal in their Stadio San Paulo hoping for a miracle

NT Bureau