With Pavel Nedved suspended, uefa.com considers Juventus FC coach Marcello Lippi's options.
By Marcus Christenson
The Stadio Delle Alpi, 14 May 2003. Twice within 15 minutes, Juventus FC midfielder Pavel Nedved was on his knees: first in celebration after his stunning, match-winning goal against UEFA Champions League holders Real Madrid; and then, with eight minutes remaining, in despair after picking up his third booking of the campaign and realising he would miss Wednesday's final against AC Milan.
Replacing the irrepressible
The seemingly innocuous foul on Madrid's Steve McManaman has deprived coach Marcello Lippi of arguably his best player this season and instead handed him an near-impossible conundrum: how to replace the irrepressible Czech.
Lippi and Juventus have coped with injuries and suspensions before this season. Strikers David Trezeguet and Alessandro Del Piero have both missed large chunks of the campaign and Alessio Tacchinardi, Paolo Montero and Edgar Davids were all missing when Juve came away with a creditable 2-1 defeat from the Santiago Bernabéu in the semi-final first leg.
Complete midfield player
Nedved, however, is a different matter. The former S.S. Lazio man has transformed himself into the complete midfield player since joining Juventus two years ago. He can shoot, he can tackle, he can pass and, above all, he never stops running. And Lippi knows that it will be extremely difficult to find someone who can bring the same qualities to the team - although the coach has a few other options.
The most likely replacement is winger Mauro Camoranesi, who joined the club from Hellas-Verona FC in the summer. The Argentinian-born midfield player had an outstanding start to the season and can play on the right or left of midfield or, indeed, in the hole behind the strikers. That said, he does not have the tenacity of Nedved and Lippi could also opt to start with Marco Di Vaio on the left.
Del Piero role
The former Parma AC striker has played down the left before, earlier this season with Juventus and the national team, as well as for his former club Salernitana Calcio, and gives the team more of a threat up front. Alternately, Di Vaio's presence could give Lippi the option of playing Del Piero behind two strikers (Di Vaio and Trezeguet), although this alternative may be too attacking to start with against Milan's tireless midfield.
Midfield the key
And it is in midfield the game is likely to be won. Juventus won that battle in the teams' first league meeting of the season at the Delle Alpi as Nedved, Edgar Davids and Alessio Tacchinardi harried the Milan players - and holding midfield player Andrea Pirlo, in particular - into making crucial mistakes. Di Vaio and Lilian Thuram scored the goals in the 2-1 win.
In the return match at the end of March, Pirlo was lent support by the indefatigable Gennaro Gattuso in central midfield with Rui Costa and Andriy Shevchenko attacking from the right-hand side. This time it was Milan's turn to win 2-1 with strikers Shevchenko and Filippo Inzaghi on target. On Wednesday night, both coaches will be looking to repeat their winning tricks. The difference this time, though, is that Lippi has lost one of his aces.