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Alessandro Del Piero hopes history repeats itself on Tuesday when Juventus FC tackle SK Rapid Wien at the Stadio Delle Alpi.
'Pinturicchio' was a sprightly 21-year-old when the Austrian side visited Turin for a UEFA Champions League group stage fixture on 30 October 1996 - a date he remembers well. "I have fond memories of Rapid," Del Piero said. "I scored twice when we played them nine years ago, and it would be great if I could score again." That 5-0 triumph proved to be the springboard for a memorable season as the Bianconeri progressed to the final before succumbing to BV Borussia Dortmund, with Del Piero scoring Juve's consolation.
'Goals and milestones'
Now 30 and a veteran of 68 internationals for Italy, Del Piero is still highly esteemed at the club but not to the extent that he starts every game. It is therefore unclear whether he will reach his century of European matches for Juve via the starting XI or the bench. "It's very stimulating to be on the verge of 100 games," the forward said. "I am always setting myself milestones and I am very aware of the records. To reach 100 games would make me very proud. Then I'll set myself another goal to aim for."
Fabio Capello's target is to keep on winning. Juventus have an unblemished record from six matches played this season, including a 2-1 Matchday 1 win at Club Brugge KV (while Rapid were losing 1-0 at home to FC Bayern München) as Group A got under way. "This is a very important game," said the coach. "We have to play Bayern in our next two Champions League matches so we are looking to get three points here."
In addition to long-term casualties Jonathan Zebina and Gianluigi Buffon, Patrick Vieira will also sit out the game following his sending-off in Belgium. The former Arsenal FC captain has already scored three goals for the Italian champions, but Capello has faith in his squad - and the Frenchman's likely deputy Giuliano Giannichedda. "We have a very big, well-balanced squad to call on," he said.
That sentiment was echoed by Rapid coach Josef Hickersberger, who when asked to name the opposition dangermen, proceeded to list almost every player available to Capello. "We are dealing with world-class players here," said the 57-year-old. "Not only do they have the right players, they have the right coach. They could well go on and win this [tournament]."
Hickersberger came under close scrutiny at his pre-match conference, following the Austrian Football Association's earlier announcement that it hopes he will replace Hans Krankl as coach when the position becomes vacant next month. Although that seems likely, Hickersberger played down such talk, with his team preparing for a match that has taken on greater significance after the loss to Bayern - a game in which Rapid twice hit the bar and missed a late penalty.
Defence the key
The coach is expected to stick to his preferred 4-4-2 formation as captain Steffen Hofmann made a welcome return from injury in Rapid's 2-0 defeat of FC Wacker Tirol on Saturday. Markus Katzer and Martin Hiden remain absent with knee injuries from a defence which must improve from the Bayern match. "We had some very good chances in that game and didn't take them," Hickersberger said. "But we'll have a good chance on Tuesday if we improve our defending. That is the key."
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