Juventus look to bounce back after Europa exit
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