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Juventus count down to title and securing Conte

Juventus' Kwadwo Asamoah (L) jumps for the ball with Udinese's Dusan Basta during their Italian Serie A soccer match at the Friuli stadium i
Juventus' Kwadwo Asamoah (L) jumps for the ball with Udinese's Dusan Basta during their Italian Serie A soccer match at the Friuli stadium i

By Terry Daley

ROME (Reuters) - On the verge of winning a third straight Serie A title, Juventus have two further objectives - winning their first major European trophy in nearly two decades and keeping hold of coach Antonio Conte.

Juve host relegation-threatened Bologna on Easter Saturday (1230 ET) having won all their 16 home games this season before Roma, eight points behind the leaders with five games to play, face fourth-placed Fiorentina in Florence (1500 ET).

Should Juventus win on Saturday, and then away at struggling Sassuolo and at home to Europa League-chasing Atalanta, the league title will be theirs. They would then have the satisfaction of travelling to the Italian capital to take on Rudi Garcia's Roma the following week as champions.

Conte's contract with Juventus expires in June 2015 and the club are desperate to tie him down to a long-term deal. The Gazzetta Dello Sport reported on Thursday the club have told Conte they want a decision on his future within 20 days.

"Conte has said that his personal situation will be discussed at the end of the season. The club is very happy with the work he has carried out, he is the leader of our team and we're very happy to have him," said Juve CEO Giuseppe Marotta.

"We will talk once we have won something important like the Scudetto or the Europa League."

Conte has been the architect of Juventus's dominance. He arrived at the club in 2011 after they had finished seventh in Serie A under Luigi Delneri and were still feeling the effects of the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal, that had led to Juve being stripped of two titles and relegated to Serie B in 2006.

Should they win the league it will officially be their 30th title, but the club and Juve fans refuse to acknowledge the authorities' tally. They would hail it as their 32nd.

Juventus also have a Europa League semi-final with Portugal's league leaders Benfica next Thursday (1405 ET), with a place in the final at their Juventus Stadium in May up for grabs over the two legs.

After a disastrous Champions League campaign in which they lost out to Galatasaray for second place in their group, the club's first major European success since winning the Champions League in 1996 would be a huge boost to morale.

Juve are by far the biggest and best-supported club in Italy but lag way behind seven-times European champions AC Milan in terms of continental honors.

A domestic and European double would be especially sweet for captain Gianluigi Buffon, who was close to leaving Juve for Roma in 2011 after a decade at the club. He stuck with them through their relegation and years of Serie A mediocrity, despite being arguably the best goalkeeper in the world.

The closest that the legendary stopper has come to European glory is when losing the Champions League final on penalties to AC Milan at Old Trafford in 2003.

"I don't regret not going to Roma ... Every now and again there are times when a player just wants to have a change of scenery," he said to Sky Sport Italia on Wednesday.

"Certain events, including the arrival of Antonio Conte, led to my relationship with the club and the president improving, and it all resulted in me feeling energized and wanting to try and win titles again."

A win at Fiorentina would guarantee Roma second place and direct passage to the Champions League group stage next season. They are 12 points ahead of Napoli, who travel to Udinese (0900 ET), and have a superior head-to-head record.

Roma are keen to secure Garcia with a long-term deal after what is their best Serie A season in terms of points.

"We'll talk about my contract at the end of the season, but I want Roma to be competitive both at home and in Europe next season," Frenchman Garcia said on Wednesday.

"I don't want play a bit part in Europe like I did at Lille three years ago. I want the squad to be kept together, as with a bit of work we will be ready."

(Reporting by Terry Daley; Editing by Robert Woodward) nL3N0N92OS

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