Conte returns to Juventus for trip to Palermo

DANIELLA MATAR Associated Press Published:

MILAN (AP) -- Juventus coach Antonio Conte will be back on the bench following a four-month suspension as the defending champions visit Palermo on Sunday in Serie A.

Conte was banned for failing to report match-fixing when he coached Siena two seasons ago.

It comes as a timely boost for Juventus, with Napoli and Inter Milan just behind them in the league. Those two teams meet at the San Siro on Sunday.

Juventus will also be boosted after winning at Shakhtar Donetsk 1-0 on Wednesday to qualify for the knockout stage of the Champions League as group winners.

"As you gradually improve and you manage to impose your own game at tough grounds, your confidence improves," Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci said. "We managed to make the most of our counter-attacks and that's thanks to the fantastic work of who trains us every day.

"Qualifying for the last 16 was a gift for the coach and we owed it to him. He has suffered these past few months away from the pitch and now he will come back stronger than ever."

Palermo is struggling in 17th place, but could have earned a draw against Inter Milan last weekend had not an own-goal led to a 1-0 loss.

"Conte has always been an example for everyone," Palermo coach Gian Piero Gasperini said. "I have a great relationship with him and it was his work last year which was decisive. He's someone the league has missed, he's paid for what happened. The presence of a coach is fundamental for the footballers, in a very direct way."

Fiorentina and Lazio are only two points behind Inter. Fiorentina visits Roma on Saturday, while Lazio travels to struggling Bologna on Monday.

Also, AC Milan will head to Torino looking to continue its recent resurgence.

Milan lost at home to Zenit St Petersburg 1-0 in the Champions League on Tuesday, but had already qualified for the last 16. The league's top striker, Stephan El Shaarawy, was rested for all but 10 minutes.

Prior to that loss, Milan had only lost one of its past nine games and was on a three-game winning streak.

Also Sunday, it's: Cagliari vs. Chievo Verona; Pescara vs. Genoa; and Siena vs. Catania. Atalanta hosts Parma on Saturday, while Sampdoria entertains Udinese on Monday.