By Simon Evans
MILAN – Juventus need a miracle to stay in the Champions League, that was the verdict of Turin sports paper Tuttosport on Wednesday after the Italian champions were beaten 2-0 by Arsenal in the first-leg of their quarter-final.
a victory by three goals at the Delle Alpi next week in order to reach the semi-finals, their task will be even more difficult because of the absence of three players.
Midfielder Mauro Camoranesi and defender Jonathan Zebina were both sent off late in the game and French midfielder Patrick Vieira is also suspended due to a culmination of yellow cards in the competition.
The two red cards, which came from petulant fouls for second yellow cards with the score already at 2-0 after goals from Thierry Henry and Francesc Fabregas, prompted the daily Gazzetta dello Sport to lead it’s front page with the headline ‘Juve out of their heads – Henry punishes’.
The paper suggested that Juve, who are eight points clear in Serie A having lost just one domestic game all season, may now be paying the price for their impressive form earlier in the campaign.
“The suspicion is that after seven months of formidable performances, Juve have arrived at the end of March a little bit worn out. In 90 minutes the long ball to Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the only attacking threat they made. One single chance in 90 minutes….little or nothing,” said the paper.
Vieira, who joined Juventus from Arsenal at the start of the season after nine years with the English club, came in for some stinging criticism from the sports papers.
“In the theatre where he once directed the orchestra he immediately dropped the baton,” wrote Corriere dello Sport referring to his mistake for Arsenal’s opening goal.
Tuttosport rather cruelly focused on Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s decision to let the Frenchman leave for the Turin club.
“It should have been his game, he should have brought out everything he had inside him to show his old fans his worth. In the end those at Highbury understood just what a good bit of business Wenger had done,” said the paper, while Gazzeta said that he had been ‘outclassed’ by his ‘pupil’ Fabregas.
Gazzetta also wondered whether Arsenal had exposed more fundamental weaknesses in Fabio Capello’s side.
“There are at least two things which are a red alert for Juve — the first is that the (central) quartet of Lilian Thuram and Fabio Cannavaro at the back and Emerson and Vieira in midfield were not able to put Henry in a cage nor to defend in numbers. If it hadn’t been for (goalkeeper) Gianluigi Buffon…
“The second concern is that the strike pairing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Trezeguet, if it is not provided with good service, doesn’t work,” said the paper. — Reuter