News from the Peninsula – Juve – all change promised, not much delivered

Juventus, in two games under Alberto Zaccheroni remain unbeaten, but positives have are at a premium for the Bianconeri, who have registered two insipid draws under Zac’s tutelage.

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Despite the change of Coach and shift to a three-man defence, Juve’s performances have carried on in a similar vein to that which saw the demise of Ciro Ferrara. In 180 minutes of football, tifosi have yet to see a goal scored from open play, and the general disjointed nature of the team’s approach play has continued. La Vecchia Signora have been decimated by injuries, but the starting line-up’s they can put out are deserving of better showings than those they have delivered against Lazio and Livorno. Juve now find themselves seventh, three points adrift of the Champions League slots, but with no immediate sign of the up-turn in fortunes a change of tactician is supposed to provoke.

Recurring problems surround the failure to coerce Brazilian trequartista Diego into proceedings, and a change to a 3-4-1-2 with the former Werder Bremen ace behind two strikers did little to spark his creative talents into life against Livorno last weekend. The fact that nobody other than David Trezeguet and Amauri have struck more than four Serie A goals, highlight the lack of potency they possess. Zaccheroni’s remit was clear – a top four finish must be attained – and the Juventus board has taken this presumption to heart as deputy director-general Roberto Bettega has apparently already drawn up grand plans to restore the Turin giants to their former glory as of next season. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Bettega has only guaranteed a place at the club to 11 members of the squad for next season’s campaign, meaning the rest of them find themselves in limbo.

If the report has any substance, the likes of Trezeguet, Fabio Grosso, Fabio Cannavaro, Jonathan Zebina, Mauro Camoranesi and Hasan Salihamidžic, amongst others, will be seeking pastures new come the summer. Whilst the proactivity of the board may be commendable, other questions need to be raised, such as how insecurity to squad members would help in the current plight, and what the prospective future Coach of Juve will make of the asset stripping. The Bianconeri squad is one of the most senior in the league, with more than 10 players aged 30 or over. Given the relative shortcomings since Calciopoli, renovation is needed, and further reports have surfaced in the Press regarding approaches for a stream of top players in their prime, including Franck Ribery, Juan Manuel Vargas and Gonzalo Higuain. It is not only the playing staff the newspapers are speculating will be subject to an overhaul, with Tuttosport claiming Cesare Prandelli will be lured form Fiorentina to Coach, with Marcelo Lippi returning to the club as President.

At the moment, these changes are nothing but hot air, the real talking needs to start immediately as Juve try to get back on track in their chase for a Champions League slot. The next assignment is Genoa on Sunday, Valentine’s Day, with the Olimpico faithful not expecting roses, chocolates and a card from the petrol station. Just three points will do.

Sunday is also the perfect time for Edy Reja to endear himself to Claudio Lotito, who chose the ex-Napoli Coach to replace Davide Ballardini, who was this week shown the door after steering the Biancocelesti into the choppy waters of the relegation zone. La Aquile face Parma – themselves without a win since December – at the Ennio Tardini, in desperate search of points to pull them away from the perils of Serie B. Around 1000 Ultras staged a protest at the clubs training ground on Tuesday, with a number of them barging down a gate and entering the complex. It is an ominous start for Reja, who had to terminate his contract with Hajduk Split to take over the troubled Roman outfit.

A boost to Reja will be the availability of Cristian Ledesma who has yet to feature this season following a contractual dispute with the club. The league arbitration panel ordered the Argentine midfielder to see out the remainder of his contract through to the summer, and with that in mind, Chairman Claudio Lotito has relaxed sanctions on Ledesma’s selection in a bid to avoid the drop. It is a decision welcomed by Ledesma, who has indicated a willingness to get involved and help his employers out of their current predicament: “If the club wants, I am ready to go back on the pitch. Right now, it’s necessary to give Lazio a hand. We need to get out of this difficult situation.”

It is Champions League time again this week, and the first half of the Anglo-Milan battle, with last year’s beaten finalists Manchester United travelling to the San Siro to face the topsy turvy Milan. A few weeks back, il Diavolo were sweeping all before them, but a derby defeat to nine-man Inter has knocked the wind from their sails. They are without a win in the four games following on from the derby loss, scoring just one goal in that time. Milan and Ronaldinho’s form have been directly proportional this season, and it has been evident that the Brazilian has been below par in the recent slump. As ever when Ronnie has an off day, allegations about his nocturnal pursuits hit the Press. Apparently Silvio Berlusconi has spoken to the Samba star to remind him of his on-field duties ahead of a pivotal week in which Milan aim to re-start their Scudetto challenge whilst progressing in Europe.

Brazil Coach Dunga has left Ronnie out of his Seleção for an upcoming friendly, which gives the forward an opportune moment to respond against Manchester United, in a games all associated with Milan will be hoping to see Dinho lead a merry dance.

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