Juventus’ murky doping past has reared its ugly head and threatens to overshadow the Serie A champions’ fixture today against AS Roma.
In normal circumstances the Juve-Roma match would be one most neutral fans would be keen to watch, but comments on Thursday by Roma coach Zdenek Zeman on allegations made in a book by former Serie A player Matias Almeyda mean that the match could be more tense than usual.
Fourteen years ago, Czech coach Zeman hit the headlines when he raised his suspicions about the use of steroids by the Turin giants, suspicions which would eventually lead to sanctions being handed to a Juventus official and after Almeyda’s recently published book carried similar claims — notably that he believed he had been given drugs by former club Parma — Zeman stood by his past comments.
“Years ago I said there was doping in football. I have not yet read the autobiography of Matias Almeyda, but I’m not surprised,” Zeman said, according to ANSA. “Now even some of the players are saying what I’ve said — if they had done [something to remedy] the problem, it would have been eliminated long ago.”
The comments, naturally, have angered fans of Juventus, who go into today’s game top of the league, but level on points with second-placed SSC Napoli.
Although he is likely to face a special welcome in Turin, Zeman is ready for the backlash.
“I hope that we can concentrate on the football, but if they’re angry with me, they should also be angry with all the prosecutors, the courts and so many other people,” he said.
While on the field, Juventus will look to make amends for a scoreless draw against ACF Fiorentina on Tuesday, while Roma striker Pablo Osvaldo is hoping his expected return to action following a brief spell on the sidelines goes to plan.
“Both our teams play the best football in Serie A,” Osvaldo told Sky Sport Italia.
“I don’t know what the score of the match will be, but we’ll be going there looking to bring home the three points. We have a great team and we can do well,” he said.
Juventus, perhaps in anticipation of the storm of questions relating to Zeman and Almeyda’s allegations, announced that caretaker coach Massimo Carrera would not answer questions at the club’s weekly press conference yesterday.
Meanwhile, AC Milan will look to build on their first home win of the season, a 2-0 defeat of Cagliari, when they travel to Parma.
Italy under-21 international striker Stephan El Shaarawy was the two-goal star on Wednesday and he said the result was proof that the team are fully behind embattled coach Massimiliano Allegri.
“I want to dedicate them [goals] to the coach. He’s shown a lot of faith in me and he knows he has the loyalty of the entire team,” said El Shaarawy, who has scored three goals in his last two games.
The bulk of the weekend’s fixtures will be held tomorrow, with UC Sampdoria against SSC Napoli and Inter versus ACF Fiorentina arguably the pick of the bunch.
Napoli are the only team to have kept pace with Juventus so far and they did so in style on Wednesday when an Edinson Cavani hat-trick helped demolish SS Lazio 3-0, but like Juventus and Napoli, Sampdoria are unbeaten in five games so far and could be hard to turn over at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, where Roma had to settle for a draw on Wednesday after Francesco Totti had given them the lead.