After suffering three straight defeats for the first time in 12 years, it seems the winter break cannot come soon enough for Juventus FC. Yet first they have the unfinished business of taking the point they need against Olympiacos CFP to secure them first place in UEFA Champions League Group D.
Juventus, who lead the section by two points from Real Sociedad de Fútbol, failed to tie up top spot last week when they lost their rearranged fixture against Galatasaray SK 2-0. Sandwiching that loss were two domestic setbacks - defeats by Internazionale FC and S.S. Lazio - which have left the Italian champions third in Serie A and prompted their coach, Marcello Lippi, to call for a return to winning ways.
'Need to start again'
Lippi said: "We need to start again.
It's not the first time we've found ourselves in this situation; we got out of it then and we will do this time too." Lippi is without the suspended Edgar Davids and has chosen to rest Lilian Thuram, Nicola Legrottaglie and Pavel Nedved, yet even without those players he sees no reason why Juve cannot gain the win required to restore morale.
"I want three points to win the group and also because I want my side to regain confidence after three consecutive defeats," he said. "I have spoken several times with the players in the last few days and we are all sure about our strength."
Lippi added he was hoping for "more luck" than against Galatasaray, when his team paid for missed chances. On paper, at least, they should have nothing to fear from an Olympiacos side who have won only once in Group D and sit bottom of the section.
UEFA Cup place
Still Olympiacos, who inflicted Juve's one previous defeat at home by Greek opposition, in the 1999/2000 UEFA Cup, have something to play for as victory in Turin - combined with Galatasaray's failure to win at Real Sociedad - would earn them third position and a place in Friday's UEFA Cup third-round draw.
The Greek league leaders' coach, Oleh Protasov, said: "It's our last chance. We know it's difficult to gain points in Turin, but we will play to win the match, we cannot just defend because we need three points to qualify for the UEFA Cup.
Juve are in a bad run and we'll try to make the most of it."
Protasov, whose team went four points clear in the Alpha Ethniki after beating Halkidona FC 1-0 last weekend, has Predrag Djordjevic available again after his one-match suspension. However, Christos Patsatzoglou, Ieroklis Stoltidis, Marcin Kuzba and Konstantinos Mendrinos are all missing for this final throw of the dice.
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