Straight from the dark heart of Italy
Italy’s collective Europa League campaign has been one of flops,
failures and in the end a freezing out of Europe’s B-list competition.
are the sole survivors with one round remaining of the group stages,
where the four Serie A representatives have managed just two wins out of
a possible twenty.
Juventus, Sampdoria and Palermo all saw their
hopes disappear this week, but in truth the damage was done earlier on
when victories were needed but never materialised.
Juve could well
have complained that they could have done with playing in anti-glare
snow goggles in Poland, where they drew with Lech Poznan in temperatures
that reportedly fell to -11c, but there had been a chilling wind
signalling an end to the Old Lady’s European hopes long before that.
straight draws have ultimately proven their undoing, and if they had
managed to hold on for a draw at Manchester City then the return match
next week may have held some significance, rather than becoming a
glorified friendly. The goalless draw at home to Salzburg is something
Gigi Del Neri and his men will not look back at with much pride either.
rallying call in Turin will now be ‘the scudetto’ but clubs with their
sights set on the title are generally not participating in the Europa
League in the first place, never mind exiting at the group stage
there isn’t one team dominating the league at the moment and Juve are
only six points off leaders AC Milan, but as in Europe, dropping two
points has been the problem and the Turin outfit have also been dogged
by the inability to put consecutive victories together.
look better equipped to launch a title bid after their failure to
overcome Sparta Prague left them also facing elimination from the Europa
The Sicilians will have gained valuable experience from
their brief stay in the competition - especially when it comes to
ensuring that, if they are going to pick up yellow cards, they need to
spread them around the team.
Dorian Goian was the latest guilty
party when he needlessly picked up a yellow card early on against the
Czech team and then could have no complaints when he received a second
for a foul to give away a penalty.
Petulance is Javier Pastore’s
problem and kicking the ball away when you are already booked was just
plain brainless for what was the Argentine’s second dismissal in the
competition, although a talent such as he will no doubt be performing in
the Champions League next season, be it with his current club or his
pick of Europe’s elite.
Whatever you may think of Sampdoria’s
stand against the potty-mouthed Antonio Cassano, the truth of the matter
is that they lacked that extra quality their star performer brings to
the pitch (and that he so obviously lacks away from it) in their 2-1
home defeat to PSV Eindhoven.
Earlier this season, the
Blucerchiati were sixty seconds away from making the group stages of the
Champions League against Werder Bremen, but ultimately paid for not
been able to hold on to a lead as was the case again in both matches
against the Dutch side.
So it is left to Napoli to maintain some
Italian pride, and a home win in their final game against Steau
Bucharest will see them through.
The Partenopei had Edinson Cavani
to thank again in another incredible comeback when it looked all over
in Utrecht last night. The Uruguayan, who had grabbed a 98th-minute
equaliser at Steau earlier in the campaign, hit a hat-trick against the
Eredivisie side to set up what is effectively a knock-out European tie
at the San Paolo against the Romanian side next Thursday.
hard to believe that Palermo president Maurizio Zamperini felt that
Cavani was not up to the task of leading the frontline and although
Juve, Samp and Palermo will not have another chance to show what they
can do in Europe this season, at least one club from the peninsula is
keeping the flag flying which for a time yesterday evening looked highly
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On the road to ruin
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