Still in the gut­ter? Mis­er­able week puts a damp­ener on Serie A

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - FOOTBALL -

MI­LAN: Serie A was given a cruel re­minder of its fall from grace this week as its three Cham­pi­ons League rep­re­sen­ta­tives picked up a measly one point be­tween them.

Ju­ven­tus were out­classed 3-0 by Barcelona, Napoli were beaten by Shakhtar Donetsk and AS Roma clung on for a 0-0 draw at home to Atletico Madrid. Ac­cord­ing to Gazzetta dello Sport, it was the worst start by Ital­ian clubs since the group stage was ex­panded to 32 teams in 1999-2000, eclips­ing the 2011-2012 record when In­ter Mi­lan, AC Mi­lan and Napoli man­aged a de­feat and two draws be­tween them.

Ju­ven­tus and Napoli have been dom­i­nant on home turf, mak­ing their Euro­pean hum­blings more wor­ry­ing. Ju­ven­tus, cham­pi­ons for the last six sea­sons, have lost only two league games this year and Napoli have won their last eight Serie A out­ings.

Once seen as Europe’s top do­mes­tic league, Serie A has fallen be­hind Spain’s La Liga and Eng­land’s Premier League as its tele­vi­sion rev­enues have failed to keep up. Al­though Ju­ven­tus have reached the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal twice in the last three sea­sons, no other Serie A side has gone be­yond the last 16 since AC Mi­lan in 2011-2012 and it is 10 years since two Ital­ian sides were in the last eight.

It was be­lieved the worst was over, with new in­vestors com­ing in and more clubs look­ing to own their own sta­di­ums. But this week’s events have sug­gested there is a long way to go and may raise ques­tions about UEFA’s de­ci­sion to give Italy four guar­an­teed slots in the Cham­pi­ons League group stage from next sea­son.

“I’m dis­ap­pointed, there is noth­ing else to do but cry,” said for­mer AC Mi­lan coach Ar­rigo Sac­chi, now work­ing as a tele­vi­sion an­a­lyst, after Napoli’s 2-1 de­feat in Ukraine Wed­nes­day. “If you play in Europe like you do in Bologna, then you are des­tined to lose.” Napoli coach Mau­r­izio Sarri said his team were too slug­gish at the start.

“It’s the third game in a row which we have ap­proached the wrong way ,” he said. “In Serie A, we man­aged to res­cue our­selves but, at this level, it was dif­fi­cult to change the story after such a bad open­ing 20 min­utes.”

Napoli have a straight­for­ward match Sun­day when they host pro­moted Ben­evento, who have lost their open­ing three matches.

Ju­ven­tus and Roma also face win­less op­po­nents as the cham­pi­ons visit Sas­suolo and last sea­son’s run­ners-up host pro­moted Verona.

Ju­ven­tus coach Mas­si­m­il­iano Al­le­gri said it was too early to jump to draw con­clu­sions from the Barcelona match. “It was just the first game in the group so the crit­i­cism is ex­ag­ger­ated,” Al­le­gri said.

“The team will bounce back as they al­ways have done. We lost against a great side and were miss­ing a lot of play­ers.”

Ju­ven­tus were out­classed 3-0 by Barcelona.

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