Del Piero ready to haunt Arsenal in super-sub role

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Alessandro Del Piero could face Arsenal in tomorrow night's Champions' League quarter final second leg, after the Juventus striker said a scan on his injured thigh was "satisfactory".

Del Piero, who missed the first leg, will train with the rest of the squad today. Even if passed fit, Del Piero is unlikely to dislodge either of coach Fabio Capello's preferred strikers, Zlatan Ibrahimovic or David Trezeguet, from the starting line-up.

The player has had to adapt to the role of "super sub" under Capello but his dead-ball deliveries give Juventus a valuable weapon as they look to overturn a 2-0 deficit.

The return after suspension of Pavel Nedved is seen by many in Italy as a bigger boost - the dynamic Czech midfielder has become obsessed with winning the Champions' League since missing the 2003 final against Milan through suspension. Nedved was at the centre of controversy yesterday after allegedly telling an English newspaper that his team-mates should be ashamed of their performance at Highbury.

Nedved said the "interview" had never taken place, but tension in the Juve camp is not an invention. It was evident to Italian television viewers on Saturday in Capello's blazing row with Ibrahimovic during Juve's 0-0 draw with bottom club Treviso. Capello took off Ibrahimovic after an hour, later explaining that the player was getting increasingly frustrated when his tricks did not come off. The Swedish striker is reported to have sworn at his Italian coach in English.

Capello has been criticised since his side were outclassed at Highbury for his reluctance to rest key players ahead of Champions' League games. He rested only defender Lilian Thuram against Treviso and the team put in another tired second-half performance, prompting former Juve midfielder, Alessio Tacchinardi, now with Spanish club Villarreal, to claim that Capello is "always sticking with the same players. He never changes, even when they're shattered".

With the touchline dispute and below-par performance, it was almost forgotten that the Treviso draw gave Juventus a nine-point lead over Milan with six games remaining - virtually guaranteeing the Old Lady a 29th Scudetto. Yesterday, the Italy coach Marcello Lippi, who led Juve to Champions' League success in 1996, gave his old side a boost when he insisted they were capable of eliminating Arsène Wenger's men.

Comments