Tickets to spare? For Juve fans that would be absolutely Fabio

The match all the exiles are desperate to see as Capello refines his plan to tame Thierry
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The Independent Online

Reluctant as one is to offer useful information to the sub-species known as ticket touts, any of that breed able to provide two together for Arsenal's eagerly anticipated Champions' League tie with Juventus at Highbury on Tuesday should spend the next three days trawling London's Italian restaurants.

The supporters' club set up 25 years ago by the journalist Wolfgang Bucci for fellow Juventini exiled in the capital used to be granted up to 1,200 tickets for the great occasions when the team visited English grounds. This time they were dismayed to learn from Turin that the allocation would be precisely 13.

So Bucci sits in his office behind Queenstown Road railway station with his ears assailed not only by trains thundering past the window but by Juve supporters demanding to know how they can obtain one of the precious pieces of paper.

"It's ridiculous," he said. "Juv-entus used to give as many tickets as we asked for, it was no problem. Every time they played outside Italy, I would always organise trips from London. If they play in London, they should have more consideration for those who live in London. It upsets me because I have to refuse so many people, and in the meantime there are tickets for £160 each on the black market.

"There are so many Juventus supporters all over the world, probably more outside Italy than inside. They are the most loved club in Italy."

Bucci's own love of the club was instilled by his father, despite their living in Rome, where they would cheer for Juve at the Olympic Stadium against Roma or Lazio. He came to England as long ago as 1960 and now runs the multilingual and multicultural Spectrum radio station as well as editing a daily news-paper and monthly magazine for the Italian community, and writing about football.

With his football writer's hat on, he initially manages a degree of objectivity about the Arsenal tie. "I consider it's 50-50. Arsenal did very well to beat Real Madrid and are out of the FA Cup and the championship race, so they can concentrate everything on the Champions' League. I like to watch them, a very entertaining team, more than Chelsea. But [Fabio] Capello says he has a plan to stop Thierry Henry, because he's the engine of the team and without him the rest of the team do not move so well. [Jonathan] Zebina, the French right-back, is very quick, and [Fabio] Cannavaro in the centre is a fantastic defender as well as a very nice guy. And [Alessandro] Del Piero is doing well again because he wants to go to the World Cup."

And the Italian view of Patrick Vieira? "The first part of the season he was very good, then after Christmas he has faded a bit. But he is very, very popular. I think he has changed his attitude a bit. In England he was getting fed up. It's very hard to predict who will win because they are two good teams. Who would believe that Juventus could be beaten by Liverpool last season? How can a team like Milan lose a 3-0 lead [to Liverpool] in the final?"

Unlike some of the foreign football community, who profess disdain for the physical fight-ball of the English game, Bucci claims that most Italians are big fans. "Now there is satellite television everywhere and they watch Sky all the time, they love to watch English matches. Many even say, 'Why don't we play the English way?'

"They love the way English teams continue to fight all the time, right up until the 90th minute. Before it was all physical, but now it's more tactical and intelligent with more foreign coaches and players here."

Anglophilia may not yet extend to all Italian supporters if the recent attacks on Middles-brough supporters in Rome for a Uefa Cup tie are anything to go by. But Bucci believes the security at grounds has improved immensely since the dreadful day when he took 100 Juventus supporters from England to Heysel for the 1985 European Cup final against Liverpool. "We were at the other end of the ground and didn't realise the gravity of the situation," he said.

"I think most people didn't unless you were close by. There was a little bit of trouble in the city before the game, although many cafes had closed down. They smashed a few windows because of drunkenness. Like in Rome at the 1984 final, I rem-ember the following morning Liverpool fans still lying in the streets drunk and singing. I think the attitude has changed."

But even after 26 years in England, love of club and country comes through in the (Champions' League) final analysis for the Italian with the German first name (his father was as great an admirer of Wolfgang Mozart as of Juve): "I would not be surprised to see a final like three years ago, between Juventus and Milan." And if anyone has 1,187 tickets to spare for Tuesday...

CHAMPIONS' LEAGUE QUARTER-FINALS

TUESDAY: ARSENAL v JUVENTUS

Though the club is known as the "Old Lady", the famous name Juventus derives from the Italian word for youth, but they will be relying on solid experience to see them past an Arsenal side who will have the young guns blazing. Failing to score at home to Liverpool in last year's quarter-final cost Juve dearly, and although Arsène Wenger, Arsenal's manager, says he would accept a goalless draw at Highbury, he cannot rely on the runaway Serie A leaders turning in such a poor performance at the Stadio delle Alpi as they did last April.

BENFICA v BARCELONA

When the clubs met in a famous European Cup final 45 years ago, Benfica's little-known youngsters (Eusebio had not yet signed) beat Barça's glory boys 3-2. The Portuguese can only hope for a repeat in similar circumstances. The odds are against them - just as they were before beating Manchester United and Liverpool this season. Barça, with all their individual talent, will play an open game even in the away leg, so anything could happen.

WEDNESDAY: INTERNAZIONALE v VILLARREAL

Internazionale were grateful to the wily old Dejan Stankovic for goals in each leg of the first knockout round against Ajax, who had run up a 2-0 half-time lead in Amsterdam. Here, he will need to assist the Argentinian midfielder Esteban Cambiasso in keeping tabs on Villarreal's playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme. But this is a favourable draw for the Italians, who should be strong enough to build a lead at home in the San Siro and then defend it in Spain.

LYON v MILAN

Gérard Houllier is restoring a reputation that became a little tarnished by the end of his time at Anfield, leading Lyon not only to their expected position at the head of the French league, but also taking them into the last eight of Europe's premier competition; and all that without being able to call on Michael Essien's services. A total of 18 Champions' League goals in eight games will give Milan's renowned (but ageing) defence something to think about, and the visitors would be unwise to sit back in this leg.

Odds: 6-4 Barcelona; 7-2 Juventus; 6-1 Milan; 7 Lyon, Internazionale; 11 Arsenal; 14 Villarreal; 28 Benfica

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