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Monday, 28 November 2005

2528: Serie A: 'Pitiless' Capello de

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by : Haby Assevero

It’s the sort of thing that as a rival fan can make you sick. Here you have your team playing well, standing toe to toe with the defending champions and you’re thinking that a draw is a definite possibility. Who knows you might even nick a goal and escape with all three points.

Then the abyss…they have four shots on target and score four goals, two of them in the space of 120 seconds. That’s the worst case scenario that Roma fans lived through on November 19th against Juventus. And you can believe that given the rivalry between the two sides, it was a bitter defeat indeed.

Let’s be precise though. Roma might have played well but that doesn’t mean Juve didn’t deserve to win. It just means that they shouldn’t have won by such a large score. The fact of the matter is that in the first half, there wasn’t a lot between the two sides.

Roma, even with Francesco Totti playing far below what his talent could lead one to expect, managed to contain Fabio Capello’s side for the first 45 minutes. Roma were solid in midfield, thanks notably to an outstanding Olivier Dacourt, the former Leeds man, and quick on the counter attack.

They limited Juventus to very few clear chances and were unlucky to concede in injury time of the first half. There wasn’t much to be done about Juventus’ second goal. Emerson launched Ibrahimovic, who flicked the ball forward with his heel, left the Roma defender for dead and raced towards goal, firing the ball into the back of the net.
Barely a minute later, Zambrotta’s cross found David Trezeguet for Juve’s 3rd goal and shortly there after Ibrahimovic’s cross again picked out Trezeguet. In the space of roughly ten minutes, Juventus sealed the three points, despite a penalty for Roma and Lillian Thuram’s red card that left Capello’s squad down to ten men.

No, it’s not so much the result as the way that Juventus played that leaves a little something to be desired. When you describe the elements that have made Juventus’ reputation as well as their performance against Roma, it’s words like efficient, realistic, cynic even that come to mind.

Juventus have based their legend if you will on victory, never mind whether they play well or not. That’s not a judgment so much as a statement of fact. It’s what they do, they hit their opponents where it hurts, when it’s liable to hurt most.

The headline of one of Rome’s most popular sports papers the day after the match was “ Pitiless Juve” That sums it up. Fabio Capello’s side have absolutely no mercy. They are now more than ever leaders of Serie A given that Milan were beaten by Firorentina, leaving the bianconeri 5 points clear at the top.

It has now been more than a year since Juventus were not at the top of Serie A. There’s not much to be done in the face of that kind of consistency. AC Milan, their most credible rivals are probably superior in terms of technical quality man for man and they certainly play more entertaining football but they lack Juve’s ruthlessness and killer instinct.

Much of this is of course Fabio Capello’s doing. Wherever he goes, he wins. He’s astute with his tactics and his man management skills are second to none in terms of their effectiveness, if not popularity. (Relegating Ale Del Piero to the bench isn’t exactly a popular move in Turin) This is what makes Capello a better manager than say Jose Mourinho.

If you put Capello at Chelsea, they‘d probably dominate the Premiership just as much if not more than they are doing at the moment. On the other hand, if Mourinho was at Juventus, would he be able to get the best out of some of the club‘s headstrong players?

Tactically, he’d do just fine in Italy, but we all know that Jose isn‘t much for egos that are bigger than his and I personally would love to be a fly on the wall if Mourinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic had to work together every day.

Capello’s Juventus is probably the most solid side in Europe at the moment. To run out 4-1 winners over a decent Roma side in Rome is not an easy thing to do. A few weeks ago the 3-1 defeat at Milan had people thinking that another mano a mano, ( like last season where the title was decided by a direct confrontation between Juve and Milan with three games to play) was on the cards.

If Juve keep up their current rhythm, though, it will be next to impossible to stop them winning the league. And who knows what they might get up to in the Champions League? This year could well see them in the final.

True to their reputation, Juventus won’t always, in fact will almost never be a fantastic side to watch (unless of course you are a Juve fan, although given the consistently small numbers at Delle Alpi one wonders…) but they will be ruthlessly effective.

Haby Assevero
26 November 2005

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