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Jan 6, 2006

Trezeguet and Juve raring to return in Serie A

MILAN, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Serie A leaders Juventus face Palermo in Sicily on Saturday with striker David Trezeguet looking to score for the 10th successive match.

The France forward has 11 goals from the past nine games and is just two short of Argentine Gabriel Batistuta's all-time record of scoring in 11 consecutive Serie A matches.

Champions Juve were held to a 1-1 draw at Lazio in their final game before the Christmas break - only the second time they have failed to win this season.

However, they still have a healthy eight-point lead over second-placed Inter Milan with AC Milan a further point behind.

With 14 goals from as many games this season, Trezeguet has been crucial to the success of Fabio Capello's side but points out his strike rate reflects the quality of service he receives.

'The truth is I rely on the team and my goals are the fruit of the work of my team mates,' he says. 'If the team is in good health and moving the ball around then I'm going to score goals.

'We have everything in place to continue this marvellous run of form even though we know that Inter are a great team, with excellent individuals, who will be on our tails right to the end - and that goes for Milan too,' adds Trezeguet.

TOUGH SCHEDULE

Juve ended the year feeling the pace of a tough schedule as they qualified comfortably from their Champions League group but Trezeguet says they are refreshed and raring for a return to action.

'The break came at just the right time for us. After the win at Siena we were a bit tired and found it hard going.

'We had a good rest and then got back in training after the break. In these past few days we've got ourselves in shape for the coming tests,' he said.

Capello has few options in defence, though, with Alessandro Birindelli, Jonathan Zebina and Robert Kovac all injured and full-back Gianluca Zambrotta suspended.

Federico Balzaretti, the 24-year-old defender signed from Torino in the close season, is likely to step in at full-back.

Palermo, who have lost their last two games, have disappointed of late after a promising start to the campaign and coach Luigi Del Neri will likely be without attacking midfielder Franco Brienza who is struggling with an ankle injury.

Cristiano Lupatelli will make his debut in goal for the Sicilian side, after a swap deal that saw Matteo Guardalben head to Parma.

Inter are at mid-table Siena on Sunday while Milan striker Alberto Gilardino will face his old side Parma for the first time since his close season move.