Wed, Oct 23, 2013 - Page 18 News List

Desperate Juve in need of Santiago Bernabeu boost

AFP, MADRID

Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale, center, vies for the ball with Malaga’s Bobley Anderson, left, and Fabrice Olinga in their La Liga match in Madrid, Spain, on Saturday.

Photo: AFP

Italian champions Juventus travel to face Real Madrid today desperately needing to kick-start their UEFA Champions League campaign.

Juve could only manage disappointing draws against Copenhagen and Galatasaray in their opening two games, leaving them four points adrift of Madrid at the top of Group B and their confidence ahead of the daunting trip to the Santiago Bernabeu was not helped by a first league defeat of the season on Sunday as ACF Fiorentina came from 2-0 down to beat Antonio Conte’s men 4-2.

Conte described his side’s second-half meltdown at the Artemio Franchi as a “nightmare.”

However, he is hoping his side’s experience will help them to get over the disappointment of defeat quickly.

“The game against Real Madrid didn’t condition the game. When you are on the pitch it is difficult to think about the next game,” Conte said. “It is inexplicable with the experience that we have. It annoys us to lose, but we have to forget it quickly. We are a mature team.”

Juve’s two points from their opening two games mean they lead Galatasaray and Copenhagen by just a solitary point and are likely to have to take points from Madrid to avoid a tense showdown with the Turkish champions for second place in the final game in Istanbul.

Chile international midfielder Arturo Vidal is a major doubt after he suffered a muscular problem in the latter stages against Fiorentina, while Stephan Lichsteiner and Mirko Vucinic are also likely to be missing.

There have been no such problems for Madrid in their opening two group games as they set a new competition record for the most prolific start to a Champions League campaign by firing 10 goals past Galatasaray and Copenhagen.

However, despite Juve’s struggles so far in the competition, Madrid defender Pepe insists they deserve respect.

“We have to respect all their players. They have stars like [Gianluigi] Buffon and [Andrea] Pirlo, but I think their most important quality is their collective ability,” he told the club’s Web site.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men also had a morale-boosting weekend as a 2-0 win over Malaga allied to dropped points for Barcelona and Atletico Madrid saw them move to within three points of Barcelona at the top of La Liga.

Gareth Bale returned for the final 13 minutes of Saturday’s match following a slight thigh problem and Ancelotti did not rule out the possibility that the Welshman could start against Juve.

“I don’t think he would have any problems in playing from the start and it is an option that we have,” he said.

Ancelotti is also hoping France internationals Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane will be fit, despite missing the win over Malaga with calf and knee injuries respectively.

Both players trained with the rest of the squad on Monday, as did Xabi Alonso for the first time since breaking a bone in his foot in August, but the Spain international is not expected to be involved due to his lack of match practice.

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