x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Juventus are struggling for wins and goals in Serie A

Juventus' slump in form and goals has provoked a mild case of panic, while all around Serie A the club's former strikers are finding the net.


AC Milan chalk up a vital win against rivals Napoli

Some people at Juventus should have known better than to try to play Marco Di Vaio offside. Di Vaio may be 34, less speedy than when was a Juve striker a long seven years ago, but he can still find the necessary yard of acceleration when he needs it.

Chasing a long ball over the top of Juve's square line of defenders in Turin last Saturday night, Di Vaio used his highest gear to score the first of his goals in Bologna's 2-0 win.

For the second, he showed some of the close control that Juve, when they let him leave in 2004, thought he did not quite have enough of.

Being punished by a former player is becoming an alarmingly habit for Juventus. Their year started badly when Sebastian Giovinco, the so-called Atomic Ant who had been loaned out last summer, scored two goals in Parma's 4-1 rout of Serie A's most titled club.

Almost inevitably, Fabrizio Miccoli - another striker who, like Giovinco, was considered a bit too small when Juventus waved goodbye to him the same time Di Vaio left - scored for Palermo when they beat Juve 2-1.

So what chance Zlatan Ibrahimovic netting for AC Milan against his old club on Saturday? Juve can only feel thankful that Milan's Pippo Inzaghi, once theirs, is out injured.

Juve are in poor form. Di Vaio's nifty work inflicted the club's sixth Serie A defeat of 2011 and, lying seventh in the table, they are seven points from a position that would put them in next season's Champions League pre-qualifiers, the target that Gigi Del Neri, the head coach, was given by the new board last July.

Juve expect Champions League status, at the very least, and know it is needed if they are to attract leading players to the club.

Whether Alessandro Matri, the striker they took on loan - with a view to a permanent deal - from Cagliari in January turns out to be of European Cup calibre remains to be seen. Matri made a stunning start to his Juve career, with three goals from his first three matches. But, along with the rest of Juve's front players, he seems to have lost some of that potency.

Bologna's coup came fast on the heels of a 2-0 defeat at Lecce. Confidence is visibly fading.

Juve have had bad luck with strikers, and not just those that they might have carelessly released over the years.

Vicenzo Iaquinta, guilty of more luckless finishing against Bologna, is struggling in front of goal; Fabio Quagliarella, signed last summer, started his Juve career well enough but is ruled out of the second half of the current campaign because of the injury sustained in the defeat against Parma.

His absence caused a January panic among the club's strategy makers. Amauri had fallen from favour and form, so he was loaned out to Parma - for whom, incidentally, he scored his second and third goals at the weekend and that's from five games so far - and Juve cast the net wide.

Sevilla turned them down when they made an offer for Luis Fabiano and they then lost out to Inter Milan in the race to sign Giampaolo Pazzini from Sampdoria. They ended up with the peripatetic Luca Toni, 33 and now at his fourth different club in 14 months, and Matri.

The man Juve really wanted for the Del Neri era was Antonio Di Natale, who confirmed last week what had been widely suspected.

"Juventus made a good offer last summer but I was happy to stay at Udinese," said Di Natale, whose hat-trick in Sunday's 7-0 slamming of Palermo puts the striker back where he finished last season: at the top of the Serie A scoring chart.

Di Natale, 33 but as evergreen as Di Vaio or Miccoli, may have been right to say no.

He currently has a far greater likelihood of playing in Europe's principal club competition next term as a Udinese player than if he were part of the stumbling Juventus.