While Napoli and Milan were preparing for their Champions League opener, Juventus dropped points in Denmark. Luca Cetta writes.
What is it about Copenhagen’s Parken Stadium that irritates Juventus? For the second season running Antonio Conte’s side could only manage a draw in the Danish capital. In 2012-13 it was Nordsjaelland in a 1-1 draw. Yesterday, Juve were frustrated by FC Copenhagen and held to the same result. Only Fabio Quagliarella’s second half strike saved Juve from a more embarrassing scoreline.
‘What a waste Juve’, scolded the Gazzetta dello Sport this morning. In a tricky Group B, the Bianconeri have already made life difficult. This would’ve been pencilled in as a three pointer to get the campaign off and running. Instead, Juve look back and wonder.
“Experience teaches me if you don’t put the ball in the net then you’re not going to win,” said a disappointed Conte. “We have to learn that no matter how many chances you create, they have to go in.”Johan Wiland proved inspired in the FCK goal, making fantastic saves to deny Giorgio Chiellini, Paul Pogba and Carlos Tevez, amongst others.
Yet despite his interventions, the Turin club had enough of the game and created ample opportunities – 27 to be exact – to render Wiland a side note to proceedings. At the other end, Nicolai Jorgensen profited from hesitant defending to open the scoring inside the opening quarter of an hour. It capped a slow start that would come back to haunt the Bianconeri.
The stalemate complicates matters, although Juve did recover from three consecutive draws last term to then win their group. However, an opening day draw at the home of the defending champions – coming back from two goals down and controlling the game in the process – is a far cry from the result 12 months on.
Similar to Stamford Bridge, it was Quagliarella to the rescue. If not for his sweeping finish Juve were headed for a defeat. And just like a year ago, the Castellammare di Stabia native came closest to earning all three points when he hit the crossbar with scores level.
His fifth Champions League goal – after four in seven matches last season – was a reminder of what Quagliarella can offer. That he would be saving Juve in the Champions League looked highly unlikely a month ago. Then, Quagliagol seemed on the scrapheap. His future was subject to constant speculation and as the transfer window drew to a close, it appeared Quagliarella would be headed to the capital. But with offers on the table, potential deals were scuppered seemingly by Conte.
And just as he did in both clashes against Chelsea, Quagliarella popped up here with a pivotal strike. Thrust into the role of an impact player, Quagliarella has reminded of his ability to net important goals, and not just against tiring defences.
Nonetheless, it proved a poor start for Juventus in what was the easiest of the three games for Italian clubs. Napoli are preparing for a blockbuster against Borussia Dortmund, while Milan welcome Celtic to the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.
For the Neapolitans the visit of last season’s finalists marks their return to the competition following a one-year absence. Their last Champions League outing proved memorable, notably home wins over Manchester City and Chelsea. Now they come in a more experienced unit. One of only two teams to retain their 100 per cent record in Serie A after three matches, this represents Napoli’s first true test.
While shaky at the back, they’ve looked potent going forward. Coach Rafa Benitez insists they will attack. It’s a sentiment echoed by Marek Hamsik, who told the Gazzetta earlier this week the Partenopei are a more possession-based and aggressive side nowadays. Yet Dortmund have looked superb in early Bundesliga matches and fired a warning by smashing Hamburg 6-2 on the weekend.
Milan’s plethora of injuries dominates the talk emanating from their camp. They reacquaint themselves with the Bhoys after some tremendous battles in the mid-to-late 2000s, but do so without a number of soldiers. Four youth players are called up because of injuries suffered by Kaka, Riccardo Montolivo, Stephan El Shaarawy, Giampaolo Pazzini, Ignazio Abate, Mattia De Sciglio, Daniele Bonera and Matias Silvestre.
Celtic are back on Italian soil after meeting Juventus last season. They stunned Barcelona to ultimately make the last 16 and so the Rossoneri must be wary. Coach Massimilano Allegri has conceded they are fighting for second spot alongside the Scots and Ajax, with Barca favourites to finish first. It means they cannot afford to slip-up at home.
It proved a frustrating start for Juventus, who despite bossing possession and territory, lacked any semblance of a killer instinct in attack. The Italian assault last night stalled on the start line, but later today Napoli and Milan have the opportunity to get the charge going.