Ju­ven­tus look to bounce back af­ter Europa exit

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

AF­TER lit­er­ally be­ing frozen out of the Europa League, Ju­ven­tus can now con­cen­trate on Serie A with resur­gent mid­field­ers Felipe Melo and Al­berto Aquilani again likely to be key fig­ures in to­mor­row’s trip to Cata­nia.

The pair were near laugh­ing stocks last sea­son with Brazil’s ex­citable Melo of­ten be­ing booed by his own fans for his lack­lus­tre per­for­mances while Aquilani hardly got a game for Liver­pool amid an in­jury night­mare. This sea­son has been com­pletely dif­fer­ent with on-loan Aquilani im­press­ing so much he has won back his place in the Italy squad while Melo has just done the ba­sics well.

The cen­tral mid­field­ers have helped Juve rise up to third in the ta­ble af­ter a sticky start un­der new coach Luigi Del Neri with their two league de­feats from 14 games com­ing when for­mer AS Roma player Aquilani has not started.

He was in­el­i­gi­ble for the Europa League af­ter an ap­pear­ance for Liver­pool so he missed Wed­nes­day’s elim­i­na­tion af­ter their fifth draw from five games in the group match at Lech Poz­nan, where tem­per­a­tures dipped to as low as -15 de­grees cel­sius.

Thick snow also cov­ered the pitch in the sec­ond half. “We shouldn’t have played,” Del Neri said.

Juve seem not too up­set to have ex­ited the com­pe­ti­tion.

The twice Euro­pean cham­pi­ons, still re­cov­er­ing from a 2006 match-fix­ing de­mo­tion, see them­selves as Cham­pi­ons League reg­u­lars and the unin­spir­ing Europa League was only threat­en­ing to sap re­sources for an as­sault on the Serie A ti­tle.

Juve lie six points be­hind lead­ers AC Mi­lan but have scored 26 goals this term, more than any other Serie A team.

Lead­ers Mi­lan host Bres­cia to­day with Ronald­inho again ex­pected to be left on the bench and the slow­ing An­drea Pirlo given no guar­an­tees of a start­ing spot as coach Mas­si­m­il­iano Al­le­gri shows his mus­cle.

Mean­while, a strike by the play­ers’ union is planned for later this month but the par­ties still hope for a deal with Serie A over a col­lec­tive con­tract to avert the in­dus­trial ac­tion. – Reuters

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