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.”