Cristiano Ronaldo prepares to make his Coppa Italia debut as Juventus open their quest for a fifth consecutive trophy on Saturday with a last 16 clash against Bologna as Italian football returns to the pitch after a chaotic start to the year.
Ronaldo will be looking to pick up where he left off after scoring twice against Sampdoria before the winter break, to lead the Serie A scoring chart with 14 goals. He has also scored once for the Turin giants in the Champions League.
The 33-year-old will now chase his first Italian Cup goal just days after Las Vegas police asked the star to submit a DNA sample as part of their investigation into rape allegations made against him by an American woman which he vehemently denies.
Ronaldo’s strike partner Mario Mandzukic — who has scored nine goals this season — has been sidelined with a thigh problem that could also rule the Croatian World Cup runner-up out of next week’s Italian Super Cup.
The Italian league is still on its winter break but Juventus and AC Milan are warming up for the Super Cup final in Saudi Arabia.
Juventus midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur warned it was important to set the tone for Wednesday’s game in Jeddah where they want to lift their first trophy of the season.
“We’re focused on Bologna but then straight after that we’ll need to think about the match against AC Milan and the Super Cup, which is the first target we need to reach,” said the Uruguayan.
Juventus — the record 13-time Italian Cup winners — last year became the first Italian team to complete the double for four years in a row, beating AC Milan 4-0 in the final.
Former five-time winners AC Milan are away to Sampdoria, who last won the Cup 25 years ago.
Violence involving fans in Milan and Rome over the last two weeks have lead to calls for tougher government measures to deal with football hooliganism.
Inter Milan take on Serie B side Benevento in a closed San Siro, as they serve the first of a two-match stadium closure after racist chanting against Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly on December 26.
There were also violent clashes before the game during which an Inter supporter was killed after being hit by a car.
City rivals Roma and Lazio both host two third division sides at the Stadio Olimpico days after their fans ran amok in the capital.
Roma supporters distributed anti-Semitic leaflets in the north of the city to coincide with Lazio’s 117th anniversary celebrations.
Ten police were injured as the Lazio celebrations turned nasty.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli host Sassuolo on Sunday, with Torino hosting Fiorentina in another tie between two top flight sides.
Italian Cup last-16 fixtures
Saturday (all times GMT)
Lazio v Novara (1400), Sampdoria v AC Milan (1700), Bologna v Juventus (1945)
Torino v Fiorentina (1400), Inter Milan v Benevento (1700), Napoli v Sassuolo (1945)
Cagliari v Atalanta (1630), AS Roma v Virtus Entrella (2000)