Straight from the dark heart of Italy
Revenge is a dish best served cold, and even if he is much too polite to say so in public, on Saturday evening Claudio Ranieri will want to ram the full à la carte menu down Juventus throats.
He was unceremoniously shown the door by the Turin club just before the end of last season to be replaced by company man Ciro Ferrara in a move that has done nothing positive for the club’s fortunes.
Ranieri returned home to take charge of his beloved AS Roma and, after finally tempering his Tinkerman urges, has taken the Giallorossi on an unbeaten run through the winter months and up to third place in the table.
The Romans will descend on the other Stadio Olimpico two points ahead of the Bianconeri and in a mood to personalise this traditional heated encounter.
Ranieri cannot have forgiven his former employers for their brutal treatment and no doubt will be calculating how best to ensure that revenge is his to savour.
But the personable Roman still has to lose the public perception that he is a choker, a perception not helped when he failed to exact his revenge on Roman Abramovich when Juventus met Chelsea in the Champions League last season.
If Ferrara is the new Rocky Balboa then this is just the sort of underdog encounter that could see him screaming “Adrian... Adrian,” over the ropes at the end of what promises to be a bruising bout.
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Juve’s battered troops resembled a M*A*S*H unit after their defeat at Chievo on Sunday: Zdenek Grygera ended up in hospital with a fracture nose, Fabio Cannavaro also had his honk broken while his replacement Jonathan Zebina was left bloodied and bandaged.
More than anything physical, the loss was another blow to the team’s fragile morale – but if ever adversity is to be turned into opportunity then this is the moment.
Juve have tumbled in the area without anyone touching them - seven defeats in the last 10 games, out of the top four, 10 points fewer than this time last year, 26 goals conceded, 41 injuries - so this weekend has to be the last of the last chances to pick themselves up.
Apparently, chief backer John Elkann - of the Agnelli family - has called on Jean Claude Blanc, Alessio Secco and Roberto Bettega to face up to their responsibilities.
They have since got their heads together and put them on the block by claiming that the problem does not lie with Ferrara.
If they truly believe this to be the case, then maybe they should be taking a closer look at their own part in the debacle.
They have been scouring the league for reinforcements but all they have come with are former Juve youth players such as Michele Paolucci who couldn’t get into the Siena side, Davide Lanzafame who turned them down to stay at Parma – and now Antonio Candreva who has been warming the bench at Livorno.
One can see the hand of Marcello Lippi behind the apparent move for the latter.
After all, it was the Italy coach who gave the midfielder his international debut recently, so he has a vested interest in having one of his own in the Juve squad.
However, it will be the old guard that carry the club’s hopes on Saturday evening – on the weekend when everyone concerned with Juve will remember the passing of Gianni Agnelli seven years ago.
If they need any further motivation it should come from what L’Avvocato would have made of this unsightly scene.
As for Ranieri, let's hope he doesn't lose his appetite before the feast.
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