Tuesday, 12 August 2008

[CL] Juve ready for European comeback

Juventus and Artmedia Bratislava are both aiming to play in the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time in three seasons as they begin their third qualifying round tie in Turin on Wednesday night.

Artmedia are Slovakian championsA 0-0 draw at home to Arsenal ended Juve's most recent European participation at the quarter-final stage in 2006, since when their enforced relegation has kept them out of UEFA competition until their third-place Serie A finish last season.

Slovakian champions Artmedia exited in the group stage that season but having ousted Valetta and Tampere United this time around, they face a formidable challenge to match that previous run.

The Bianconeri have competed in the group stage ten times and only once, against Djurgardens in 2004, have they had to come through qualifying.

They now must do so without midfielders Marco Marchionni and Cristiano Zanetti – who have both been ruled out for a month with torn thigh muscles – and Paolo De Ceglie, Claudio Marchisio and Sebastian Giovinco who are all in Italy's Olympic squad. Croatian defender Dario Knezevic is doubtful with a twisted knee.

Still in pre-season, Juve have been preparing hard and coach Claudio Ranieri is happy with their summer tests against many of Europe's top clubs.

"I'm very satisfied about the way the squad played in the summer friendlies, especially against Manchester United," the 56-year-old said.

"We showed our defensive strength and overcame a stern test against the European champions. There is no better way to approach the game against Artmedia. Moreover, we can count on Gianluigi Buffon. He adds value to the rest of the squad."

Michal Hipp, assistant to Artmedia coach Vladimir Weiss, admires the two-time European champions.

"For sure Juventus are favourites," Hipp said. "They are a big team with great individuals, but we want to go there to fight for our chance, not to be there and just playing football. We want to cause a surprise."

Artmedia have had extra rest after their scheduled league match last weekend was postponed due to opponents Spartak Trnava having been struck by a stomach bug following a UEFA Cup trip at the end of last month.

The first leg in Turin kicks off at 1945 UK time (+1hr for Italy/CET), with the return in Bratislava on August 27.

UEFA Champions League
Third Qualifying Round, First Leg
Wednesday 13 August
Aalborg v Kaunas (1905)
Anorthosis Famagusta v Olympiakos (1900)
Barcelona v Wisla Krakow (2100)
Brann v Marseille (1945)
Galatasaray v Steaua Bucharest (1915)
Guimaraes v Basle (2030)
Juventus v Artmedia Petrzalka (1945)
Levski Sofia v BATE Borisov (1800)
Partizan Belgrade v Fenerbahce (1945)
Schalke v Atletico Madrid (1945)
Shakhtar Donetsk v Dinamo Zagreb (1800)
Sparta Prague v Panathinaikos (1945)
Spartak Moscow v Dynamo Kiev (1700)
Standard Liege v Liverpool (2005)
Twente v Arsenal (1945)

Source: UEFA

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