MILAN - Juventus, Italy's best supported
and most successful domestic club, look increasingly like they
are stuck in a time warp with no real idea whether past glories
will ever return given two seasons of misery.
Wednesday's 2-1 defeat at Palermo was their fourth game
without a win in all competitions and left them eighth in Serie
A, with just 15 games to go and a tricky trip to Cagliari to
come on Saturday.
Last season the Turin side, twice European champions, limped
in seventh and missed the Champions League spots having gone
through two managers in Ciro Ferrara and Alberto Zaccheroni.
Current boss Luigi Del Neri is getting understandably
increasingly impatient with his side, supposedly better on paper
despite a slew of injuries, doing worse than last term's outfit.
"We have to think about playing and improving but we want
respect otherwise judgements on the team and the coach get
twisted," Del Neri told reporters on Wednesday after being upset
by the refereeing against Palermo.
"We deserved more than we got and we have to restart from
here, but with this intensity in our play we can go far."
Talk of referees is never far away at Juve after their 2006
match-fixing demotion for trying to procure favourable officials
for their matches.
The club is still rebuilding from that shock, despite
bouncing straight back in 2007 and finishing third the season
after, and fans are questioning whether referees are now
subconsciously ignoring fouls on Juve players to redress the
There is no real evidence of this but there are clear signs
that Juve, with budgets limited by a new stadium due to open
later this year, have lost their aura of near invincibility
despite still boasting Gianlugi Buffon and Alessandro Del Piero.
Monday signing Alessandro Matri will travel back to former
club Cagliari on Saturday when Juve island hop from Sicily to
Sardinia but fellow new striker Luca Toni is still injured along
with Vincenzo Iaquinta.
Leaders AC Milan travel to Genoa on Sunday hoping
their bad luck from Tuesday's 0-0 draw with Lazio has run out
while second-placed Napoli, five points behind, host Cesena
needing a quick reaction from Wednesday's 2-0 defeat at Chievo.
Champions Inter Milan must take on bottom side Bari later on
Thursday before gearing up for a home meeting with last
term's runners-up AS Roma on Sunday, where the losers
could be all but out of the title race just like sorry Juve.
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