Litmanen is the threat to Juventus

Click to follow
Jari Litmanen will get special treatment from a wary Juventus today when the holders meet Ajax in their European Cup semi-final second leg rerun of last year's final.

The Dutch team's tricky Finn has turned into something of an obsession for Juventus after scoring against the Italians in their two previous European Cup games in the past 12 months, including the 1996 final in Rome.

The Juventus and Italy defender Ciro Ferrara made it clear who he and his team-mates consider the main danger. "I think he [Litmanen] is pretty much outstanding. He's hard to control, he moves around a lot and finds the openings. He scored in Amsterdam because he found the space while in Rome he took advantage of one of our defensive errors," Ferrara said.

Litmanen expects to recover from an injury. "I'll have a final fitness test at the Delle Alpi tomorrow. I really hope to make it," he said.

The Italians won 2-1 in Amsterdam earlier in the month after winning the cup on penalties last year. The task is by no means impossible for Ajax since Juventus beat Borussia Dortmund 3-1 away in 1995 and then lost 2-1 at the Delle Alpi in November that year. They are unbeaten at home in the European Cup since that date.

Juventus once again must do without Alessandro Del Piero who has a muscle injury. They also have Yugoslav midfielder Vladimir Jugovic suspended for one match. Alessio Tacchinardi, 21, replaces Jugovic.

Just as worrying for Juve, they also have nine players facing suspension from the final if they pick up another booking - a factor that could lead to a dose of caution.

The Croat Alen Boksic, whose winner against Bologna on Saturday sent Juve six points clear in the league, will be the main target man up front alongside the young Italy international Christian Vieri.

Ajax are missing their Dutch international striker Patrick Kluivert, who underwent surgery on his knee two weeks ago and appears to have played his last game for the club before joining Milan. The key defender Winston Bogarde appears to have overcome an ankle injury while winger Tijani Babangida has a slight knee problem.

The statistics prove only that both teams are hard to beat. Ajax have not lost an away match in the European Cup since the Champions' League started in 1992 and have a habit of playing better away than at home, while Juventus have not been beaten by the Dutch team in Italy in three matches since 1975.

Juventus (probable): A Peruzzi; S Porrini, M Iuliano, C Ferrara, P Montero, A Di Livio, A Tacchinardi, Z Zidane, D Deschamps, C Vieri, A Boksic.

Ajax (probable): E Van der Sar; M Melchiot, D Blind, F de Boer, W Bogarde; J Litmanen, A Scholten, R Witschge, T Babangida, M Overmars, R de Boer.

Comments