These are troubled times for Juventus. Another draw last weekend at home to Atalanta allowed Fiorentina to gain more ground on the Old Lady in the chase for third place, while also failing to take advantage of Milan’s shock reverse in Udine. Their winless streak, stretching over two months, coupled with the very serious threat of playing Champions League qualifiers, threw the Juve management into action and they promptly dispensed with Tactician Claudio Ranieri on Monday.
Club legend Ciro Ferrara has now been charged with the task of securing at least third spot in the table. To aid his quest, he will turn to the under-used ‘old guard’ of David Trezeguet and club captain Alessandro Del Piero, and also Juve’s ‘future’ in Sebastian Giovinco for inspiration. Ferrara will also look to call on all the man-management skills he gained whilst working alongside Marcello Lippi for la Nazionale and with the youth team at Vinovo before his sudden promotion.
Siena has been sitting comfortably in lower mid-table obscurity for a number of weeks since top-flight football for the 2009/10 campaign was guaranteed. Last weekend’s 3-0 loss at Inter’s championship party curtailed what was becoming an impressive sequence of home wins following victories against Napoli and Palermo. The club will be looking to round off their final home game of the season with a second successive win against the Old Lady at the Stadio Franchi Montepaschi di Siena. Prior to this surprise result, Juve had returned home with all three points on each of their previous three trips to the Tuscan capital.
Highly-rated Coach Marco Giampaolo has a near-full strength squad to choose from with only keeper Dimitrios Eleftheropoulos and Mirko Guadalupi missing from action. The team should be largely unchanged from last week’s loss at Inter, allowing on-loan playmaker Houssine Kharja to again pull the strings behind the front pairing of Massimo Maccarone and starlet Abelkhader Ghezzal, who may get another rare start.
20 Ficagna – 90 Portanova – 15 Brandao – 30 Del Grosso
8 Vergassola – 5 Codrea – 14 Galloppa
32 Maccarone – 18 Ghezzal
Over in Turin, there is little good news for interim-Coach Ciro Ferrara to cheer with Cristian Molinaro, Paolo De Ceglie, and Dario Knezevic all doubts for the trip to Siena. Worse still Zdenek Grygera ruptured a thigh muscle in Wednesday morning’s training session, making him a major doubt for this weekend’s trip to Tuscany and next weekend’s equally-vital clash at home to Lazio. This late setback should allow Jonathan Zebina to continue his recent run of appearances, replacing Grygera at right-back. One positive should be the return of Giorgio Chiellini, possibly at left-back, after serving his one-game ban against the Bergamaschi last Sunday. With both regular left-backs injured, Chiellini will revisit the position he once held for club and country, with Olof Mellberg and Nicola Legrottaglie starting in central defence.
The most worrying news however, centres around the club’s talismanic captain Del Piero, who suffered a contusion to his left thigh in a training ground collision with Tiago. The untimely injury will undoubtedly throw Ferrara’s plans into chaos, but Del Piero’s misfortune may be Giovinco’s opportunity, giving the youngster a chance to illustrate once again his promise in a game of huge significance. The Bianconeri Coach will monitor his skipper’s fitness before making a last-minute decision on team selection.
5 Zebina – 4 Mellberg – 33 Legrottaglie – 3 Chiellini
16 Camoranesi- 6 Zanetti – 11 Nedved
9 Iaquinta – 8 Amauri – 10 Del Piero
When these two sides last met in January, an in-form Juventus picked up all three points after a close-fought 1-0 win, courtesy of a sublime free-kick from Del Piero who was in imperious form at the time. How things change. While Siena are out to cap off an outstanding season by their standards, la Vecchia Signora will be looking to restore some belief not only in themselves, but belief that third place and automatic entry into the Champions League can be secured.
All signs point to Ferrara dispensing with the rigid 4-4-2 favoured by Ranieri, opting instead for an attacking 4-3-3 formation to press the Siena midfield and defence into submission. If fit, Del Piero will look to provide the creative spark Juve has been missing of late, and will look to penetrate the Siena defence with some able assistance from the tireless Vincenzo Iaquinta, who hasn’t been lacking goals himself. With Giampaolo’s preference for a 4-4-2 system, Siena’s mean defence (who, by the way, have conceded only three more goals than their opponents) will be tough to breach, while their industrious midfield will look to stamp their authority against what should be a lightweight midfield presented by Ferrara. If the Old Lady’s creative players can manipulate the Robur midfield and support the trident attack, there should be only one outcome.
Much depends on this game, which will decide Juventus’ fate for both this and next season. With two games remaining, they could still realistically leapfrog Milan and take second place. Alternatively, they could extend their wretched run of form and end up with a season of glorious failure after endless promises of success. More worryingly, they could yet face another short summer, with the threat of having to play a Champions League qualifier looming large. If this scenario does occur it will be deemed one which could and should have been easily avoided.