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Nov 28, 2005

Fiorentina-Juventus rivalry adds edge to Cup clash

ROME, Nov 28 (Reuters) - The bitter rivalry between Juventus and Fiorentina should add an extra edge to their Italian Cup tie at Florence's Stadio Franchi on Thursday.

A place in the quarter-finals is at stake over the two legs of the tie and Thursday's game is the first of two meetings in four days between the clubs, who also play each other at the Franchi in Serie A action on Sunday.

With Juventus currently top of the league and Fiorentina third, they might be forgiven for following common practice and fielding second-string sides in the Cup -- a competition that many big Italian clubs treat as an irritant.

The antipathy that exists between the clubs, however, should ensure that a decent number of first-team regulars take part.

The origins of Juventus's and Fiorentina's mutual dislike are disputed although finish to the 1981-82 season did not help.

That year they went into the last round of Serie A matches level on points at the top of the league but a disallowed Fiorentina goal and a penalty for Juventus packed off the title to Turin.

Angry protests followed on the streets of Florence with many in the city convinced that Juventus had bribed the match officials.

Fiorentina's resentment, which simmered throughout the 1980s, was stoked up on eve of the 1990 World Cup when Juventus announced they had bought Roberto Baggio, the darling of Fiorentina fans, for a then world record £8.0million.

Baggio needed an armed guard when he returned to the Stadio Franchi the following year and there is now usually a heavy police presence whenever the two teams meet.

Both sides are among the most successful in the history of the Italian Cup with Juventus having lifted the trophy nine times to Fiorentina's six.

Juventus coach Fabio Capello is likely to rest his first-choice strike pairing of David Trezeguet and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

That could give Romanian Adrian Mutu a chance to start alongside Alessandro Del Piero, who is just two goals away from equalling Giampiero Boniperti's club record of 182 goals.

How Fiorentina fare in the tie will depend on how they cope in the absence of striker Luca Toni, who has scored 16 times in 13 Serie A matches this season but is likely to be rested in preparation for Sunday's game.

In the other last 16 fixtures this week, holders Inter Milan travel to Parma and Serie B side Atalanta host Udinese on Wednesday.

Another Serie A side, Brescia, play AC Milan at the San Siro on Tuesday.

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