Lecce set for a frosty reception

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The Independent Online

There could be a frosty atmosphere in the boardroom at Juventus tomorrow when the leaders host Lecce. Their coach, Zdenek Zeman, is the man whose accusations of doping in Serie A resulted in Juve officials going on trial.

There could be a frosty atmosphere in the boardroom at Juventus tomorrow when the leaders host Lecce. Their coach, Zdenek Zeman, is the man whose accusations of doping in Serie A resulted in Juve officials going on trial.

The Czech, who has coached Lazio and Roma, became the centre of controversy in 1998 when he said the game should "get out of the pharmacists". He pointed the finger at Juventus players leading to a lengthy investigation. Two officials face possible jail sentences if found guilty in a Turin court.

It was thought Zeman would subsequently struggle to find work in Serie A given the political power of Juventus but Lecce took him on in the summer. They have been rewarded with an entertaining team which currently lies fourth.

Juventus had a shock loss to Reggina last week but still hold a six point lead over Milan as the latter drew their last two matches. Milan meet Siena boosted by the return of Andriy Shevchenko but neighbiours Internazionale, who have drawn nine out 11 matches this season, are without Juan Sebastian Veron who has a muscle strain. Udinese, who went third with two wins this week, host Messina.

Highlights elsewhere include two of the minor derbies, the all-Tuscan affair between Fiorentina and Livorno and the Lombardian duel of Atalanta and Brescia. Atalanta's Andrea Mandorlini is likely to be fired if his team, who are without Demetrio Albertini, lose.

Another Italian coach under pressure is Claudio Ranieri whose Valencia team host Real Zaragoza. The La Liga champions have not won in nine matches during which time they have slipped to seventh in the domestic table and face elimination in Europe.

"The only way to turn things around is to win a match and everything will change after that," says the Argentinian midfielder Pablo Aimar, who should return to the side after injury. "It is easy to lose your confidence, but we have to realise that this is the team that won everything last year and we haven't suddenly forgotten how to play."

Leaders Barcelona travel south to play a Real Betis team managed by the former coach Llorenc Serra Ferrer. A slip is likely to allow Real Madrid to cut the gap ahead of next week's classico as they host lowly Albacete.

In Germany, Schalke 04 hope to cap an extraordinary revival under Ralf Rangnick. The Gelsenkirchen club were 15th, just one place and two points off the relegation zone, when he replaced Jupp Heynckes at the end of September. They have since climbed to second with a run of six straight wins.

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