Pepe ready for 'any role' to help Juve overcome injury crisis

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The Independent Online

Juventus will be hoping to end a run of three consecutive draws in Europa League Group A when they host Red Bull Salzburg tonight. The two sides drew 1-1 in Salzburg in the last round of matches and both teams need a victory to increase their chances of progressing to the next stage from a pool that also contains Manchester City.

"The draw with Manchester City was good, but we let ourselves down at home to Lech Poznan," winger Simone Pepe said yesterday. "We need a victory to help us progress from the group."

City lead the group with seven, Poznan are second with four, Juventus third with three, while Salzburg have one. Juventus go into the match with Salzburg on the back of a confidence-boosting 2-1 win over Milan at San Siro. The result leaves them fourth in Serie A on 15 points.

"The victory on Saturday has given us even more faith in our abilities," Pepe said. "It was something we lacked before, but now we have a lot of it. Up to now we have drawn three times and we need at least one win to stand a chance of progressing in the Europa League."

However, Luigi Delneri's team is facing an injury crisis. Paolo De Ceglie is out for three months with a knee injury, Jorge Martinez has broken a bone in his foot and is out of action for two months, while goalkeeper Alex Manninger has a back injury and will be on the sidelines for a month. It means that Pepe may be called into action as an emergency full-back.

"We know we have a lot of injuries," Pepe said, "but whoever takes the field is good and it means we won't miss the injured player. I have always said that if he needs to, the coach can always count on me [to fill in] as I did against Milan. I think that with some self-sacrifice and desire you can adapt to any role."

Salzburg are in good form in the Austrian Bundesliga and have taken seven points from the last nine. Nonetheless, the Salzburg coach, Huub Stevens, expects an improvement for the match in Turin's Olympic Stadium. "I am not happy with seven points from the last three games or with the performances," Stevens said. "Perhaps a few players already had their thoughts on Turin on Sunday."

Stevens has injury concerns of his own, with both David Mendes and Ibrahim Sekagya struggling with thigh injuries following the draw with Rapid Vienna. However, goalkeeper Eddie Gustafsson made a return to training on Tuesday.

"Juventus would love to win, and almost need to win if they are to qualify," Stevens said. "Juventus need to beat us and will play to do so. They are a top-class team and we need to be at our absolute best to take anything home with us."

Paris St-Germain are unbeaten in the Europa League and can take a step closer to the knockout round with victory over Borussia Dortmund. PSG needed a late equaliser to grab a point at Dortmund two weeks ago, meaning that the German club needs to win in Paris to stand a realistic chance of going through.

"We've shown this season already that we are able to win top games. It is like a final for us," the Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller said.

Fans of the six-times German champions are expected to number around 2,500 at Parc des Princes. A heavy security presence will be in place around the stadium. Two seasons ago, PSG hooligans fought running battles with their counterparts from Dutch side FC Twente in the run-up to the match, both in the city centre and outside the stadium.

Dortmund moved to the top of the Bundesliga by winning 2-0 at previous leaders Mainz on Sunday, but have only four points from three games in the Europa League. PSG lead Group J with seven points while Seville, who lost lost at home to PSG, have six.

"We have to get at least six points from the last three games, otherwise we are out of it," the Dortmund midfielder Nuri Sahin added.

Dortmund struggled to break PSG down in the corresponding match two weeks ago, but have been in excellent form in the league away from home and their coach, Jürgen Klopp, remains upbeat.

"What we saw makes us believe that we can beat PSG on the road," said Klopp, whose team have set a Bundesliga record by winning their first five away games of the season.

PSG have relied heavily on Brazilian playmaker Nene this season. His nine goals in all competitions make him comfortably the club's top scorer. But the club's strikers, Mevlut Erding and Guillaume Hoarau, have struggled to find the net.

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