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Juventus in ominous form

Published: Tuesday 31 December 2002's mid-term report of Juventus FC, the Italian champions aiming to rule Europe once again. features

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Published: Tuesday 31 December 2002

Juventus in ominous form's mid-term report of Juventus FC, the Italian champions aiming to rule Europe once again.
With the UEFA Champions League on its winter break, will publish mid-term reports on the 16 remaining sides in the competition every day until 31 December. In our penultimate run-down, we look at Italian champions Juventus FC, revived under Marcello Lippi and seeking a second Champions League title.

Story so far
The Bianconeri are again in contention in Serie A - where they sit fifth, four points off the leaders - but Europe is the priority this season with coach Lippi determined to add to his record of having led the club to three successive Champions League finals between 1996 and 1998. Only one of these campaigns ended in victory - the penalties win against AFC Ajax in 1996 - yet Lippi will expect his side to mount a genuine challenge for the top trophy in the months ahead. Juventus have certainly impressed so far. They headed their first-stage section, Group E, with 13 points after beating FC Dynamo Kyiv home and away - including a 5-0 thrashing of the Ukrainian team at Delle Alpi.

Nor did their form drop in the second phase. Lippi's men came from behind to draw 2-2 at RC Deportivo La Coruña, before a 4-0 defeat of FC Basel left them as favourites to progress from Group D alongside Manchester United FC.

One of Juventus's qualities is that they have goalscorers throughout the side. Alessandro Del Piero and Marco Di Vaio might have four goals apiece in the Champions League, but ten Bianconeri players have registered so far this season in all competitions. It was the influential Czech international Pavel Nedved who struck the vital equaliser in La Coruña, and he helps form one of the strongest midfield units in European football alongside the combative Dutchman Edgar Davids.

Previous Juventus successes have been built on the foundation of a solid defence, and Ciro Ferrara, Mark Iuliano, Gianluca Pessotto and Paulo Montero bring a wealth of experience to the back-line. But while the goals-against column has been as miserly as ever, none of these players is getting any younger and they could be exposed by pace later in the tournament. Lippi's team are also vulnerable to injury, with Croatian centre-back Igor Tudor and French striker David Trezeguet having missed matches through thigh and knee problems respectively. The latter player did, however, making a goalscoring comeback against Basel.

Key player - Alessandro Del Piero
Del Piero is undoubtedly the star of the side, although Juventus rely on him less than in previous seasons. After knee surgery in 1998/99, the Italian international looks to be back to his best. He is a talismanic figure within the team and capable of turning a game with a moment of genius. Just ask Newcastle United FC and Dynamo - torn apart by his brilliance in successive weeks.

Best moment so far
Alessandro Birindelli's spectacular first goal against Deportivo on Matchday Seven. Having gone 2-0 down early in the game, Juventus looked set for a losing start to the second group stage, but Birindelli's strike lifted his side just before half-time and the Bianconeri went on to salvage a 2-2 draw.

Last updated: 31/12/02 14.27CET

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