Sun, Sep 10, 2006 - Page 22 News List

Juventus getting ready for life in Serie B

CONFIDENT Facing its first campaign outside the top flight in over a century, coach Didier Deschamps said his side has the right spirit to bounce back from its penalty

AP , ROME

Juventus is used to playing against AC Milan, Inter Milan and Roma in front of big crowds and with the topflight league title at stake.

What a comedown yesterday, then, when the disgraced Turin powerhouse was due to play its first ever match in the second division in front of a small crowd in the eastern seaside resort of Rimini.

It marked the start of a tough campaign to return to Serie A and leave behind the match-fixing scandal that resulted in the club's demotion.

"We have the right spirit to face a long season. We will do everything to return immediately to Serie A," new Juve coach Didier Deschamps said.

Juventus starts 17 points behind most of the other teams before a ball has been kicked due to a penalty received in the scandal. Making the task even harder, many teams are likely to save their best for Juventus.

"Against [Juventus] everybody will double their strength. And Rimini looks ready," Sampdoria coach Walter Novellino said.

A sports tribunal ruling in July relegated Juventus and stripped it of its last two league titles for its leading role in the scandal. The club -- which had won 27 previous league titles and two European Cups -- has appealed to the Italian Olympic Committee and hopes to have the 17-point penalty reduced.

Deschamps believes the team will succeed this season because, after all, "Juve is always Juve."

Last month, Juventus was eliminated from the Italian Cup, losing on penalties to second division Napoli in the third round after a 3-3 draw. Other strong contenders in Serie B include Genoa and Bologna.

Rimini playmaker Adrian Ricchiuti promised to attack Juve.

"Everybody has a weak spot," the Argentine midfielder told Italian news agency ANSA on Friday. Ricchiuti scored 25 goals over the past two seasons for Rimini, which finished 17th last season in Serie B.

Hundreds of fans spent Wednesday night camped out in tents and sleeping bags in front of Rimini's Romeo Neri stadium waiting for the box office to open in the morning. The small stadium seats less than 10,000, and tickets sold out quickly.

Such scenes may be repeated in coming months across other small Italian towns as Juventus tours many small stadiums during its first season in Serie B in more than a century of history.

Juventus is missing half of last season's starting lineup after the scandal led to a mass exodus, with Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluca Zambrotta, Lilian Thuram, Emerson, Patrick Vieira and Zlatan Ibrahimovic all leaving Turin.

Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, midfielders Pavel Nedved and Mauro Camoranesi, and forwards Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet, remain. Trezeguet was out of yesterday's match with an injury.

Juve played its home games last season in the 67,000-seat Stadio Delle Alpi, but has moved to 27,000 seat Turin's Stadio Olimpico during renovation.

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