MILAN - Juventus are so inconsistent that
it would not surprise their disillusioned fans if they reopen
the title race with a win over Serie A leaders AC Milan on
Saturday, despite the pressure on coach Luigi Del
Media reports have speculated Del Neri, who only took over
in the close season, could be sacked if seventh-placed Juve lose
in Turin irrespective of the strength of their opponents.
Juve have played stick or twist four times with coaches
since returning to Serie A in 2007 after their match-fixing
demotion and each time they have swapped.
Only Claudio Ranieri succeeding Didier Deschamps really
worked with Ciro Ferrara, Alberto Zaccheroni and now Del Neri
all weighed down by trying to restore the Old Lady's glory.
Juve, also seventh last term, have given Del Neri the
dreaded vote of confidence despite a Europa League spot not even
secure for a club that desperately needs to get back into the
Champions League to boost its dwindling financial muscle.
"It's a difficult period and we know that. The results are
not in line with expectations but I confirm again that we are
all united," president Andrea Agnelli told reporters.
Back-to-back defeats by modest Lecce and Bologna had
long-suffering Juve supporters shaking their heads in disbelief
that their club once ruled the roost in Italy and Europe.
It was all the more exasperating given Juve had previously
beaten champions Inter Milan while they also defeated AC Milan
in the reverse fixture at the San Siro in October.
Saturday's game is just as important for buoyant Milan
following their 3-0 home win over third-placed Napoli on Monday
which stretched their lead to five points with 11 games left.
Monday's win was not pretty but no Rossoneri will care as
their first scudetto since 2004 appears on the horizon.
With Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf and Massimo Ambrosini
injured, the three-man midfield of Gennaro Gattuso, Mark van
Bommel and Mathieu Flamini appears packed with snarling
aggression but lacking flair.
In reality, the trio have worked well together with Van
Bommel often popping up in the box against Napoli and Gattuso's
passing, never his strong point, improving by the game.
Coach Massimiliano Allegri's luxury of having to choose
between Pato and Antonio Cassano to partner Zlatan Ibrahimovic
and Robinho upfront suggests Milan will not be caught but
second-placed Inter have not given up the fight.
The champions host mid-table Genoa on Sunday knowing
it just needs one slip from Milan and victory for Inter in the
derby on April 3 to put Leonardo's side back on course for a
sixth straight title.
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