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Apr, 2, 2012

Conte plays down title hopes

Juventus coach Antonio Conte believes defending champions AC Milan are still favourites to win the Serie A title, despite closing the gap to the league leaders to just two points.

Juventus 3-0 Napoli (UK/US/ROI only)

• Juve close gap at summit

Conte's Juventus beat fourth-placed Napoli 3-0 on Sunday, ending their opponents nine-match unbeaten run in the process, to keep the pressure on Milan, who were held to a 1-1 draw at Catania.

The result in Turin followed their 2-0 triumph over Inter Milan and maintained Juventus' unbeaten record this season.

However, Conte said: "Only Milan can lose the Scudetto. I think in terms of quality and squad, they are superior to everyone else. But to be just two points behind the league leaders with eight games remaining gives my team and our fans strength and courage.''

"In the last two weeks we have achieved important wins against Inter Milan and Napoli, two sides that at the start of the campaign were considered to be superior to us,'' Conte said. "I can only thank my players, who have done something extraordinary.''

Juventus visit Palermo on Saturday while league leaders Milan take on Fiorentina at the San Siro.

Despite the defeat at Juve, Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis believes his players still have enough energy left in them to finish third in Serie A.

Napoli are currently one place and three points adrift of Lazio, who hold the last Champions League qualifying spot, with eight games remaining.

"Third place is still up for grabs, seeing as Udinese and Lazio also lost,'' De Laurentiis told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"We have got to scrape together the remaining energy we have and rediscover the sharpness that all the teams that competed in Europe are struggling with now.

"We have strength in depth and not just a first choice XI, so we should give room to those who haven't played as much.''

De Laurentiis admitted fatigue has hindered his team lately. Unlike Juventus, Napoli were involved in the Champions League this season. They reached the last 16 of the competition before being eliminated by Chelsea last month.

Moreover, Walter Mazzarri's men will face Juventus in the Coppa Italia final on May 20.

"The game at Juventus would have finished differently had we not played in the Champions League this season and Juve had European competition in their legs,'' De Laurentiis said.

"It's a big responsibility to play on three fronts this season at this level and I think coach Walter Mazzarri is doing very well.''

Napoli travel to Rome to face Lazio on Saturday.

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