ITALIAN SERIE A

Antonio Conte to return to touchline for Juventus

Coach's ban ends in time for the trip to Palermo, who are unbeaten at home since season opener

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 December, 2012, 1:54am

After their midweek Champions League celebrations, Juventus resume the weekly grind of Serie A with a potentially tricky away trip to Palermo that signals coach Antonio Conte's return to the touchline.

Conte, who led Juve to the title last season, was banned at the start of the season by the Italian authorities for his role in a match-fixing affair while at his former club Siena.

Despite assistant Angelo Alessio keeping the Old Lady of Turin ticking over - Juve are top of the league and qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League on Wednesday - he has welcomed Conte back to the frontline. "We're happy with our qualification and the way we qualified," said Alessio. "We're also happy to welcome back Antonio Conte for Palermo."

After a 1-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk allowed Juve to finish top of group E, defender Leonardo Bonucci said of Conte: "He's suffered a lot and we want to dedicate this to him."

As a comeback match, it appears Conte - who has always proclaimed his innocence - could not have it any easier: Palermo sit fourth from bottom of the table with few notable victories to speak of.

Yet the Sicilians, unlucky to suffer a 1-0 defeat at Inter last week, are undefeated at the Stadio Renzo Barbera since a 3-0 rout by Napoli in their league opener back in August and held AC Milan to a 2-2 draw in October.

Juve's extra incentive for what would be their 12th win in 16 games is the fact Inter and Napoli could both drop points in their late match in Milan tomorrow.

Both teams have emerged as Juve's strongest title rivals with Napoli in second only two points behind the Bianconeri, and Inter a further two points adrift.

"Are Inter Juve's main rivals? Why not? Maybe that's what we can become - I hope so," said Inter president Massimo Moratti.

Napoli have already shown their limits playing away against big name rivals during a humbling 2-0 defeat in Turin in late October 20. However, the Partenopei should have reason to believe they can return from Milan with at least a point.

Cagliari dug deep to grab a share of the points three weeks ago and Palermo came close last week until a late own goal by defender Santiago Garcia handed Inter all three points.

There is also some inner turbulence at Inter as the club digs its heels in over Wesley Sneijder.

Sneijder has been unofficially sidelined after refusing to sign an amendment to his contract which the players' trade union FIFPro labelled as "blackmail".

The stand-off has threatened to boil over, with Sneijder breaking club rules on Wednesday by responding to fans' questions on his availability on Twitter.

Inter coach Andrea Stramaccioni left the Dutchman out of his squad for the trip to Neftci in the Europa League on Thursday.

Share

 

Send to a friend

To forward this article using your default email client (e.g. Outlook), click here.

Enter multiple addresses separated by commas(,)

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive