Juve in deep trouble at half season (News Feature)
By Alberto Cagliano Jan 11, 2011, 11:23 GMT
Rome - After a stuttering start to the season followed by a decent run that lifted them to the upper tiers of the Serie A, Juventus are in a crisis that threatens to compromise the remainder of their season.
Leaders AC Milan managed only one point from their last two outings, but Juve failed to capitalise, suffering two heavy defeats that ended a run of 13 unbeaten games.
A 4-1 home defeat against Chievo after a two-week winter break and a 3-0 loss at Napoli on Sunday dropped the Bianconeri 11 points from the top at the halfway mark of the season (19 matches).
To make the start of 2011 a true nightmare for Juve fans, Fabio Quagliarella, the team's most prolific striker with nine goals to his name, ruptured a tendon in his knee against Chievo and is out for the season.
In addition, Brazil midfielder Felipe Melo earned himself a three-game ban for kicking a Chievo opponent.
Director general Giuseppe Marotta, a new arrival from Sampdoria along with coach Luigi Delneri in July, tried to blend discipline with confidence as he suggested that 'it is better to stay silent, work and look ahead with optimism because anything can happen in the future.'
Marotta recalled how Roma last year lagged 13 points behind champions Inter Milan after 19 games but eventually were in the title race until the final match.
Coach Delneri, who on Monday had to swallow the death of his brother to his professional troubles, has often repeated that his team is a work in progress.
'It is a season in which you must consider the changes, the (young) age of players, beside (veteran newcomer Luca) Toni and the (club's) finances (with possible income lost from elimination in the Europa League),' Delneri said.
'We go ahead weekend by weekend. Now it is a very difficult moment, we lost some important players. We look to having back (striker Vincenzo) Iaquinta next weekend.
'The club is trying to create a group that can improve with time. I think we are on the right track.'
For fans used to frequent success - Juve are Italy's most decorated club with 27 Serie A titles - bad periods are, however, hard to swallow.
The die-hard Bianconeri are tired to wait for a comeback after relegation to the Serie B, plus two titles stripped, in 2006 for the club's role in a wide corruption scandal.
Some of them have complained about how the club has reacted to the crisis and are looking with envy at Napoli, a team that came off the lower division with Juve in 2007 and lie second four points behind Milan.
International defender Giorgio Chiellini displayed confidence after the team's debacle in Naples, saying he feels 'certain that it will not end as last year. There are no analogies.'
Troubled by injuries and poor game, Juve last January replaced coach Ciro Ferrara with Alberto Zaccheroni, now sitting on Japan's bench, in one of the club's worse seasons.
Chiellini is likely to be right that Juve will not finish seventh with 15 defeats conceded as in 2010, but winning the title still looks like a dream for the fans.
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