Wednesday December 5 2012
Better late than never

Juventus are in Donetsk for tonight’s key Champions League showdown with Shakhtar. Luca Cetta remembers past occasions the Bianconeri’s passage to the knock-out phase went down to the wire.

There’s nothing quite like the thrill of a last match with everything still to play for. When two or more teams rely on the events squeezed into 90 minutes of action. Fans are on the edge of their seat. Everybody keeps an eye or ear on other relevant matches. Tonight, Group E will give us such a scenario. Juventus face Shakhtar Donetsk knowing they require a positive result to advance, while Chelsea need the hosts to triumph. The Bianconeri have twice before traversed a similar situation.

In 1997-98 Juventus were one of the favourites to win the competition. After failing at the final hurdle to win back-to-back European crowns there were key summer alterations. Filippo Inzaghi – and later Edgar Davids – arrived, while Christian Vieri, Alen Boksic and Vladimir Jugovic departed.

They were once again paired alongside Manchester United, plus Feyenoord and Kosice. A shock loss to Feyenoord on Matchday 5 put qualification in jeopardy. The nature of the competition meant the six group winners would be joined in the last eight by the two best runners-up. Juventus (nine points) trailed Bayer Leverkusen (12) and Rosenborg (10), while level with Paris St-Germain.

A win at the Stadio Delle Alpi versus Sir Alex Ferguson’s men was a must. And talk about taking it down to the wire. The necessary goal only arrived in the 84th minute. Inzaghi nodded in a Zinedine Zidane cross, just after Andy Cole was denied when one-on-one thanks to a last ditch effort. Even so, Juve were not yet through.

Bayer had done enough to earn a place and PSG were out of the running thanks to Juve’s superior goal difference. Eyes were focused on Rosenborg. The Norwegians were on the verge of advancing, leading 2-1 against Olympiacos. Captain Antonio Conte – waiting for news pitch-side – would erupt in joy along with the rest of the stadium at the news Predrag Djordjevic had equalised in the 88th minute. He would liken it to a miracle. Juve were saved by the skin of their teeth on the way to contesting their third successive Final.

A season later the Bianconeri found themselves in another prickly conundrum. While they started in fine form domestically – winning five of their opening seven matches – Europe proved a tougher proposition. Like this season, Marcello Lippi’s side habitually drew. Grouped with Galatasaray, Rosenborg and Athletic Bilbao, the Bianconeri drew their first five matches. A last-minute Suat Kaya goal for Gala was the last in this sequence and ensured a final day victory was the bare minimum.

As they welcomed the Norwegian champions to Turin, Juve started in third, three points behind the Turkish club and their Matchday 6 adversary. There was no Alessandro Del Piero, who a month earlier suffered the terrible knee injury which ended his season. Two first half goals from Inzaghi and Nicola Amoruso was enough to eliminate Rosenborg – who must loathe the Bianconeri – but was not yet sufficient to qualify.

They required help in Bilbao. A point for the Turkish giants would be enough to see them through. And since Juve would only have tabled the third best runners-up record, they would be eliminated. But the Basque club played their part, earning a 1-0 win. Conte stood in virtually the same spot as 12 months prior, listening to coverage from San Mames. He grimaced as Galatasaray had one last chance, but leapt high into the air seconds later at the sound of the final whistle. Juve were through on goal difference.

Tonight’s scenario promises to be just as nail-biting, although this time Juventus have destiny in their hands. As they enter Donetsk’s Donbass Arena, Conte knows his side advance if they avoid defeat. They may qualify with a loss, but only if Chelsea fails to win. A draw is enough to send Shakhtar and Juve through, but Coach Mircea Lucescu has warned his side are playing to win. Angelo Alessio has also said the Italian champions can only think about claiming three points. It sets up an intriguing finish to what has been an exciting group. And if nothing else, Juventus have history on their side in such a situation.

Have your say...
What a great performance from Juve. Did us all proud. To win the group is amazing. Juve and Milan can look forwrad to the last 16 which will be very hard but they are there. Inter, Napoli and Lazio all through would be good for them to finish wiht wins though. Also would love to see Udinese knock Liverpool out. Great to see man city finish bottom and chelsea drop into europa. The biased premier league idiots are suddenly very quiet. Magic.
on the 6th December, 2012 at 9:50am
How about when Giovinco scored and Juve topped the group...

Well done lads !!!
on the 6th December, 2012 at 5:42am

Historically Milan has been better in Europe and Juve has been better suited to the Serie A. Milan has been weakened in terms of personnel this season, surely you can understand that. The team is too reliant on El Shaarawy and I can't see him do what Kaka did in 2006/07. Juve has quality players all over the pitch but they could do with a world-class striker.

I hope Milan prove me wrong and have a good run but this team is nowhere as good previous Milan sides.
on the 6th December, 2012 at 2:16am
Shaktar donetsk 0 - Juventus 1 comfortable from start to finish! They were lucky it only ended 1 - 0 it could of so easily been 3 or 4....! Great performance from everyone! Juventus all the way!
on the 5th December, 2012 at 10:48pm
How about when Juve crashed out on Matchday 6 to Bayern a few years ago?? Worst day ever!
on the 5th December, 2012 at 6:42pm
@ Vito doria

I love how you accuse Milan for lack quality even tho WE qualified and Juve hasn't.. Yet. Are you seriously trash talking Milan for not being good enough even tho we are in the 16th and juve ain't? Stick to the league.. That's what juve seems to be good at. When it comes to CL Milan are miles ahead.
on the 5th December, 2012 at 5:08pm
I am worried about tonight! Shakhtar will provide Juve with a lot of tests tonight. Shahktar play at tempo, a tempo that Juve will struggle to deal with; especially Pirlo in front of the defence. Juve rarely faces a threat like this in Italy, maybe Napoli & the Viola perhaps. Chelsea are also a very lucky team. Last season, they rode their luck against Napoli, (with the help of a terrible De Sanctis), Barca & Bayern. Things seem to go for them when it looks unlikely.
on the 5th December, 2012 at 3:58pm
C'mon boys!! Do it for Conte! Do it for Alex! Do it for the millions of Juventini!

Show the world that Juve is back to where it belongs - the last 16 of the Champions League and perhaps even further than that!
on the 5th December, 2012 at 3:36pm
I hope Juve win, for Serie A's sake. Milan lack the quality to go far this season whereas Juve have it.

Shakhtar is through but it would be good to beat Lucescu. He was a flop in the Serie A with Pisa, Brescia and Reggiana and he relies on young Brazilians at Shakhtar. Where are the Ukrainians? His best work was at Dinamo Bucarest, when most of his players were in Romania's squad at Italia 90, their best finish before USA 94.
on the 5th December, 2012 at 3:26pm
on the 5th December, 2012 at 2:05pm
They should go through. I doubt Shakhtar will be at their best having already qualified. Juve need to keep their heads tonight, though, and be 100%.
on the 5th December, 2012 at 1:54pm
.....Signora, strut your stuff! Forza Juve!
on the 5th December, 2012 at 1:51pm
The Olympiakos player was Predrag Djordjevic*! Please spell the name of legends correctly. Gobbi have to qualify. Serie A needs Gobbi to go thru simply as we need all the coefficient points we can get. Also will Manchester City and chelsea potentially going out, it would mean that Serie A would have the same number of clubs in the second round as the over-hyped global league that is the foreign financed premier league. For me, that in itself would be an incredible achievement.
on the 5th December, 2012 at 1:49pm
even though im a napoli fan i want juve and milan to make it to the last 4 and show what italian football is about as well as napoli and lazio in the europa league
on the 5th December, 2012 at 1:13pm
on the 5th December, 2012 at 12:51pm
U can do it boys forza juve
on the 5th December, 2012 at 12:49pm
Donetsk is a turning point! SerieA clubs praying for juve qualification in CL to make them busy and exhausted for league games. That's the only hope for Napoli and Inter to catch up.
I have to admit, I dont feel well about it. When Rafa Benitez is involved, luck is always on his side!
on the 5th December, 2012 at 12:45pm
Interesting, 10 years ago Juve needed a point from their last game against Deportivo to qualify for the knockout stages and got it but under tense cicumstances and on away goals rule...

Forza Bianconeri !!!
on the 5th December, 2012 at 11:50am
Forza bianconeri!!!
on the 5th December, 2012 at 11:35am
Forza bianconeri!
on the 5th December, 2012 at 11:33am
on the 5th December, 2012 at 10:32am

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