JUVENTUS boss Luigi del Neri and Alessandro Del Piero swept into Tallaght Stadium yesterday afternoon with the cameras rolling and the paparazzi snapping.
Flanked by important-looking men in tailored club suits, the only thing that didn’t scream ‘big time’ was the club interpreter who was provided by match sponsors, the Irish Traditional Italian Chipper Association.
So the man from ‘Silvios’ translated the words of the 91-cap Italian legend and his manager as they assessed the challenge of taking on Shamrock Rovers in tonight’s Europa League clash.
“I am taking this game very seriously,” the newly-installed coach said. “They will be well organised, very well prepared and they will play very cautiously and will be strong physically. We are here to win.”
The duo took a few questions without saying much and were gone, swept out of the room by the suits to acclimatise to their surroundings in Tallaght at training.
In contrast to their illustrious guests, the Rovers players and manager Michael O’Neill lingered for almost an hour, talking about the career highlight prospect of facing off against a club who remain one of Europe’s biggest names despite a recent fall from grace.
For Juve this is another small step towards a season of redemption, for Rovers this is a high point and the Hoops are ready to give it a serious go.
The excitement around south Dublin is palpable for one of the biggest games in the club’s history, and O’Neill maintains his side can spring a shock in front of a sell out crowd.
“The players believe that the experiences we had over the two legs with Bnei Yehuda will stand them in good stead,” he said.
“For a lot of players that was their first experience in Europe and it was a positive one. I think they have embraced that and they are looking forward to this game — knowing we have to be pragmatic and conservative in how we play the game. But we are capable, certainly here in Tallaght, of causing an upset.”
Apart from long-term absentees Dessie Baker and Pat Sullivan, Rovers are at full strength.
Juve, however travelled without 280 caps worth of injuries with Gianluigi Buffon, Vincenzo Iaquinta, Mauro Camoranesi, Nicola Legrottaglie, Felipe Melo and Fabio Grosso all missing the trip to Dublin.
In their absence Brazillians Diego and Amauri will lead the line, bolstered by ex-Liverpool midfielder Momo Sissoko and Italian cap Simone Pepe in midfield and Giorgio Chiellini at the back.
Rovers are likely to be unchanged from the team that defeated Bnei Yehuda in Israel.
PROBABLE TEAMS — SHAMROCK ROVERS: Mannus; Sives, Murray, Price, Stevens; Chambers, Rice, Turner, Bayly, Stewart; Twigg.
JUVENTUS: Storari; Motta, Bonucci, Chiellini, De Ceglie; Lanzafame, Sissoko, Marchisio, Pepe; Amauri, Diego.
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