Champions League

Buffon up for Juve fight

2015-09-29 10:09
Gianluigi Buffon (AFP)

Milan - Juventus host Sevilla hoping to continue their positive start to this season's Champions League in a group D encounter that will see both sides endeavour to leave their poor domestic form well behind them.

Juventus's stock among Europe's football elite rose considerably after they became the first Italian team since Inter Milan in 2010 to reach last season's final, where they were outclassed 3-1 by Barcelona.

But hopes of a repeat this year are already looking slim, if Juve's disappointing start to the fledgling Serie A season is anything to go by - although Sevilla are in similar straits.

While Juventus have dropped to 15th place with just five points from six games - their worst start to a season since 1969-70 - Sevilla sit just two points off the relegation zone in La Liga after six games.

Both have struggled to adapt to a significant turnover of players over the summer, although in Europe's premier club competition both, ironically, have made impressive starts.

Juve claimed a shock 2-1 win at Manchester City thanks to goals in open play from Mario Mandzukic and Alvaro Morata, while Sevilla kicked off their campaign with a 3-0 win over Borussia Moenchengladbach.

But in a matter of weeks the landscape has changed dramatically for the Italian champions, whose confidence levels - if Saturday's 2-1 defeat at Napoli was anything to go by -- look uncharacteristically low.

Mandzukic is sidelined as he recovers from a thigh strain, while Juve's dysfunctioning midfield is in dire need of Claudio Marchisio, who is also out with a thigh injury.

The only good news for Allegri's men of late is the return to the squad of Swiss wing-back/defender Stephan Lichsteiner following his speedy recovery from a head knock.

Midfielder Sami Khedira also trained with the squad on Monday, but the German, whose Juve debut lasted only 25 minutes into a pre-season friendly against Marseille on August 1, is not expected to be match fit until next weekend.

With four consecutive league titles under their belt and having won their first league and Cup double last season for the first time in 20 years, the impact of Juve's domestic woes cannot be underestimated.

When club captain and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon gave a rare television interview on Sunday, it was seen as a collective mea culpa but also an impassioned call to arms.

"We have to put aside all talk of the scudetto for the next few months," Buffon said.

"The distance (between Juventus and the top of the league) is so great that we can't allow ourselves to get carried away by flights of fancy."

Buffon added: "We have to roll up our sleeves, get our hands dirty and deal with the situation. We know what we need to change to improve, and we'll be taking it now match by match.

"The Champions League is a beautiful showcase, and it's now a chance for us to regain a certain degree of certainty and enthusiasm.

"We need a ferocious, determined approach to Sevilla. It's a game we want to win."

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