Juventus's big spending failed to pay dividends again yesterday when their defensive weaknesses were exposed in an exciting 3-3 home draw with coach Luigi Del Neri's former side Sampdoria. Nicola Pozzi hit a double and Antonio Cassano, the Italy forward, was on target as the visitors frustrated the man who steered them to a fourth-placed finish last term.
Goals by Claudio Marchisio, Simone Pepe and Fabio Quagliarella at least made sure the Turin side collected their first point after they lost their opener 1-0 at Bari despite almost a whole new team of signings following last season's miserable campaign. Del Neri's side have spent 47 million (Dh219m) on eight new players this summer including Serbian winger Milos Krasic and the Italian striker Pepe.
Chievo top the standings with six points after maintaining their perfect start with a 3-1 victory at Genoa. In Spain, Sergio Aguero will miss Atletico Madrid's Europa League match at Aris Salonika on Thursday but may have recovered from a left leg injury in time for next Sunday's Primera Liga game at home to champions Barcelona. The Argentina forward was taken off on a stretcher in the second half of Atletico's 2-1 win at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday after a crunching challenge from Carlos Gurpegi. Club doctor Jose Maria Villalon told a news conference yesterday the injury was not as serious as feared and Aguero would undergo intensive therapy and take anti-inflammatories in the race to be fit.
"It's very difficult but we'll intensify the therapy so he can recover [in time for the Barca match]," Villalon said. Meanwhile, Ever Banega, the Valencia midfielder, is set to be sidelined for up to a month after spraining his left ankle against Racing Santander. Barcelona will not let Saturday's shock 2-0 defeat by promoted Hercules derail their bid for a third successive Primera Liga title, defender Daniel Alves said yesterday.
The tiny Alicante-based club sealed one of the biggest upsets of recent seasons and inflicted the first home defeat on Pep Guardiola's side since May 2009. Alves, whom Guardiola left out of his starting XI along with World Cup-winners Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Pedro and Carles Puyol, noted that Barca's most successful season, in 2008/09, had also started badly. They lost their opening match 1-0 at Numancia and drew their second 1-1 at home to Racing Santander before going on to seal an unprecedented treble of Spanish league and cup and European Champions League.
"We shouldn't get angry and lose heart," Brazilian Alves told a post-training news conference. "It's not about how you start but how you finish. "There was a lot of criticism at the beginning of the club's most successful year ever and it ended very well. Hopefully we won't ultimately need these points." Michael Ballack, the Germany midfielder, is facing a six-week lay-off with a hairline fracture. Tests yesterday showed the 33-year-old Bayer Leverkusen player has injured the tibia in his left leg. Ballack came off after playing for 30 minutes in the 2-2 draw at Hannover on Saturday.
The news deals Ballack another setback as he tries to return to the national side after missing the World Cup with an ankle injury. He officially remains Germany's captain, but coach Joachim Loew has said he must regain his pre-injury form to earn his place. Germany face European Championship qualifiers against Turkey and Kazahkstan in early October. In France, Bordeaux's miserable start to the Ligue 1 season continued yesterday with a 2-1 defeat at Nice.
The 2009 champions, who lost coach Laurent Blanc, playmaker Yoann Gourcuff and striker Marouane Chamakh during the transfer window, have only four points from their five opening games. * Agencies