Juve-Roma: Will Ranieri Have Last Laugh?
Juventus will take on Roma in Turin in perhaps one of the round’s biggest clashes and certainly only second behind the much-anticipated Milan derby. The Bianconeri have been struggling and the dismal run of results shows no sign of abating. Coach Ciro Ferrara has received much of the criticism but as pointed out in a previous article (Please refer to How Long Before Ferrara Is Shown The Door written on January 18 for more details) the former Bianconeri defender cannot be blamed for all the problems in Turin despite his inexperience.
Ironically this weekend features a clash between Juve’s past in the shape of sacked Coach Claudio Ranieri and his successor Ferrara who took over the final three games of last season. Ranieri was shown the door because the Old Lady risked losing a guaranteed Champions League spot and the decision to fire him was justified given Ferrara won the three games to secure automatic qualification for Juventus. The current Roma Coach had done all he could in Turin but it was clear he was not the right man to bring glory back to the Old Lady. Ranieri has always been labeled as the man capable of building a solid foundation but not the who can win the ultimate prize- a league title or a European trophy. Unfortunately for Claudio his record backs this hypothesis given he failed to win the league titles in England, Spain and Italy up till now. Ranieri’s greatest achievements have been the Copa del Rey and Coppa Italia triumphs with Valencia and Fiorentina respectively. Otherwise, Ranieri ranks as one of those managers who often came close but could not win the big title- he finished second with Chelsea in the Premiership and second with Juve in Serie A last season (last three games were under Ferrara).
Ranieri seems most comfortable in less stressful environments or where the levels of expectation are relatively lower as shown during his stints with Fiorentina, Valencia and Parma. All three clubs are not on par with Barcelona and Real Madrid in Spain or Juventus, Milan and Inter in Italy. Even in his current job with Roma the expectations were not high given he took over a struggling side. Credit Ranieri with Roma’s resurgence as the Giallorossi are now third in the table while Juventus have continued their slump and are fifth in the standings.
The Bianconeri host the Giallorossi at a critical point of the season and a defeat for the home club must surely close the Ferrara chapter in Vinovo. Juventus cannot afford to drop more points because the visitors will pull further ahead. Qualification to the Champions League must remain the priority given the Serie A title seems a far shot. Of course if Ferrara can claim a top three finish, win the Europa League and the Coppa Italia then he can survive another season and he could use this as a platform to improve on the club’s fortunes. The main issue here is this is the best case scenario for Ferrara and given the club’s form it is unlikely the Bianconeri will be able to bring in two trophies while making it to Europe’s elite competition next season.
The Coppa Italia path is littered with obstacles starting with league leaders Inter and in case of making it to the semi-finals then a solid Fiorentina side will be firmly waiting to spark a surprise against the Old Lady. In the Europa League Juventus must face Dutch powerhouse Ajax Amsterdam and again there are no guarantees of making it passed them. Under the current form Juve will be an easy prey for all aspiring teams just as Bari, Catania and Chievo have shown.
In the case of Roma, Claudio has seen the club go undefeated in the last eight matches in all competitions (Serie A, Coppa Italia and Europa League). While Ranieri was all along the wrong man for the Juve job, the Bianconeri board have shown the tendency to repeat their mistakes as they once again chose the inappropriate Coach for the hot seat.
The link between Ferrara and Ranieri revolves around the Bianconeri board and the series of calamitous decisions taken by the club’s management. The Juve directors were justified in sacking Ranieri but in choosing Ferrara they set themselves up for failure once again and who will be the man likely to have the last laugh? None other than the agreeable Ranieri who can inflict severe damage on the Turin club if the Giallorossi win the match. Ranieri will have defeated Juve in the head-to-head clash, he would have paved the road for a top four finish and most likely undermined the Turin club’s chances of making it to the Champions League next season.
While the Milan derby will shape the Serie A title race, the clash in Turin will not be short on drama as it will influence the Old Lady’s season and decide the fate of Ferrara.