Champions League exit halts Juve's comeback

Martin Rogers

Follow Martin Rogers on Twitter at @mrogersyahoo

The Old Lady of Italian soccer is sick right now, with a seam of poison running through a season that was supposed to signal a return to the good times.

For those who have followed Juventus' tortuous path through the past few years, the frustration is ceaseless, with every tantalizing glimmer of hope snatched away as soon as it appears.

The Turin club suffered the ignominy of relegation following the 2006 Italian match-fixing scandal and has found some of the toughest days in its history in recent times. But spirits have rarely been lower than this week, as another campaign was laid to ruin Tuesday night with a devastating Champions League home defeat to Bayern Munich.


1. Manchester United – Getting used to life without Ronaldo.
2. Chelsea – Won't be bothered by meaningless draw.
3. Barcelona – Survived tricky group by still pure class.
4. Real Madrid – Superb display in Marseille.
5. Arsenal – Slick and talented but is there enough experience?
6. Bayern Munich – Dramatic return to form avoided elimination.
7. Bordeaux – Rock solid and could go far.
8. Lyon – Skillful and motivated side has big ambitions.

Flush with optimism from a weekend victory over Serie A leader Inter Milan, there was plenty to suggest things were looking up for Juve. Needing only to draw with Bayern to advance to the Champions League knockout phase, there was a sense that finally the seven-time finalist could start to reassert its power in Europe once more.

Instead, it is an early and embarrassing departure, courtesy of a woeful display and a 4-1 defeat in which Juventus was completely outclassed.

Even worse, Juventus is now back in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. A section of the crowd at the Stadio Olimpico was heard to chant racial epithets about Inter Milan star Mario Balotelli, and an in-depth UEFA investigation is likely to follow.

Balotelli is hated by Juventus fans (and many others around Italy) for what is perceived as his arrogant nature. Yet it is Juve that finds itself stunted by its own arrogance. Failure to invest wisely last summer – instead splashing a fortune on underperforming Bazilians Felipe Melo and Diego – has placed unrealistic demands on head coach Ciro Ferrara.

The demands for a repeat of old glories persist, but the brutal fact is that Juventus still has the name but no longer the personnel to match the best at this level.

Man of the matches

It was hard to look past Michael Owen, but the performance of the week has to go to Ivica Olic. The Bayern Munich livewire scored one goal and had a hand in three more as Bayern surged into the last 16.

Shock of the week

It's not often that a Manchester United victory can be considered an upset, but the effort of Sir Alex Ferguson's under-strength side in winning 3-1 at Wolfsburg was a superb achievement.

The German side was desperate to rack up the three points it needed to stand a chance of going through and United was missing a string of regular players. However, Owen's sensational hat trick clinched the victory for Man United.

We're happy

Cristiano Ronaldo didn't take long to get himself back in favor, scoring twice as Real Madrid produced a dominating performance to beat Marseille and secure a knockout stage spot. For Ronaldo, who was widely criticized after getting sent off last weekend, redemption was sweet.

We're not

CSKA Moscow pair Sergei Ignashevich and Alexei Berezutsky could both face lengthy bans for failing drug tests after their team's clash with Manchester United on Nov. 3. The drug taken by the players is not specifically banned but still needs to be disclosed if it is taken as medicine – something CSKA and the players failed to do.