Soccer-Torino double act hope to stage rare derby upset


(Corrects fifth para to show Parma are seeking a club record 13th successive match without defeat)

By Terry Daley

ROME, Feb 20 (Reuters) - In-form Ciro Immobile and Alessio Cerci are on the hunt for Torino's first derby win over Juventus since 1995 on Sunday (1730 GMT) as well as a place in Italy's squad for the World Cup finals.

Giampiero Ventura's side have lost only twice in more than three months, winning seven of their last 12 matches, and the attacking duo are crucial to Torino's hopes of gaining a place in Europe next season.

The Turin side are seventh in Serie A on 36 points, level with Hellas Verona and Parma, who host Champions League-chasing Fiorentina on Monday (1800 GMT).

Parma, aiming for a club-record 13th successive match without defeat, are three points behind fifth-placed Inter Milan, who occupy the last Europa League spot.

Leaders Juventus have 63 points, nine ahead of AS Roma.

Immobile has scored 13 goals in 21 league appearances this season and eight in his last eight matches. He is level with Juventus striker Carlos Tevez in the scoring charts and ahead of big-name rivals such as Mario Balotelli and Gonzalo Higuain.

The 24-year-old is only one behind Serie A's top scorer, Giuseppe Rossi, who is out with a long-term knee injury and may not be ready in time for June's World Cup.

Immobile's scoring exploits are more remarkable given that wide-man Cerci takes Torino's penalties, with five of his 11 goals coming from the spot. Between them the pair have scored more than half of Toro's 39 goals.

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli didn't mention either Immobile or 26-year-old-Cerci when praising the ability of his country's younger players during an interview with on Wednesday.

However, neither is likely to be far from his thoughts given Rossi's fragile physical condition, Balotelli's uncertain form, and Italy's often stodgy attacking play in qualifying for the World Cup.

"Prandelli doesn't need me to tell him how good they are," said Torino president Urbano Cairo after Monday's 3-1 win at Hellas Verona.

"I don't want to think how much they are worth because I don't want to sell either of them."


Torino have a difficult task if they want to end a run of 15 league derbies without a win, as Juventus have won all 12 of their home games in Serie A and are unbeaten in 16 matches, winning 14 since collapsing 4-2 at Fiorentina in October.

However, Juve's defence has looked less than solid in recent weeks. They threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at Hellas Verona and caused more problems for themselves during last week's 3-1 win against Chievo, with an own goal straight after halftime.

They will also be missing tough centre back Giorgio Chiellini for the derby.

With second-placed Roma travelling to lowly Bologna on Saturday (1945 GMT), looking to close the gap on the leaders to six points, there will be some pressure on Juventus and boss Antonio Conte, who criticised his team after the draw with Hellas Verona.

Roma also have a game in hand on Juve but have injury problems, with full-backs Maicon, Federico Balzaretti and Dodo all out injured and Dutch international Kevin Strootman reportedly suffering from an intestine virus.

They will also be missing captain Francesco Totti with a buttock injury, although this is the first Roma side in a generation that doesn't heavily rely on its ageing talisman for goals and inspiration.

Coach Rudi Garcia, who turns 50 on Thursday, said: "What do I want for my birthday? To qualify for the Champions League."

(Editing by Stephen Wood)

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