Juventus missing defensive pieces

Juventus is starting to run into form under new coach Alberto
Zaccheroni but will be without goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and
central defender Giorgio Chiellini for its opening-leg match
against Fulham in the Europa League on Thursday.

It’s the first meeting between the two-time European champion
and Fulham, the English Premier League side that is experiencing
its best season in Europe.

Zaccheroni replaced Ciro Ferrara at the end of January and
the Turin club has won three of its last four games.

“We want to win an important competition again. It’s been
more or less three years since we won anything,” striker David
Trezeguet said.

“The Europa League is an important cup for the entire team.
We expected to be competing in the Champions League right now but
that didn’t work out. We’re on the right road.”

Buffon is out for a month with a thigh injury and Chiellini
pulled a leg muscle in a 2-1 win over Fiorentina on Saturday.

In Juve’s four previous games without Chiellini this season,
it has not won – losing three times and drawing once.

With Felipe Melo suspended and Mohamed Sissoko, Paolo De
Ceglie and Claudio Marchisio all questionable, the good news for
Zaccheroni is that midfielder Mauro Camoranesi is ready to return
after missing two weeks with a leg muscle problem.

“We’ve got a lot of games one after another this month and
we’ve got to face them with the right mentality,” Juventus
president Jean-Claude Blanc said. “Things are working well and now
we just need to find continuity.”

In reaching the last 16, Fulham has easily eclipsed its
previous best season in Europe, when they reached the third round
of the 2002-03 UEFA Cup.

Fulham surprised Shakhtar Donetsk, which won the trophy last
season before the tournament was revamped as the Europa League,
with a 3-2 aggregate win in the last round.

“There will be a big difference between Shakhtar Donetsk and
Juventus,” forward Zoltan Gera said on Fulham’s Web site. “We
played against Roma twice and played very well and hopefully we can
do the same against Juventus and get a result.”

Fulham shutout Manchester United 3-0 in December and enters
with a nine-game unbeaten streak in all competitions. Coach Roy
Hodgson faced Juve six times while in Italy coaching Inter Milan
from 1995-97, winning just once.

“Fulham is a tough side. It doesn’t let up for 90 minutes and
it knows how to take advantage of its chances,” Zaccheroni said.
“It’s a typical English team – it knows how to defend very well.”