Juve backs to the wall, says Conte

02 October 2013 10:46

Juventus face a daunting task if they are to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League after being held to a 2-2 draw by Galatasaray on Wednesday, said coach Antonio Conte.

Juventus came into this year's campaign hoping to go one better than last year's quarter-final appearance when the Italian champions were humbled 4-0 on aggregate by eventual winners Bayern Munich.

But two weeks after a frustrating 1-1 draw away to FC Copenhagen, the Bianconeri failed to round out a dominant performance with a first win of their Group B campaign.

Juventus next meet Real Madrid home and away, host Copenhagen and finish the campaign with a potentially daunting trip to Istanbul on December 10.

After seeing his side ship two goals due to defensive lapses, Conte said the Italian champions will now have to grit their teeth if they are to claim one of the top two spots offering entry to the last 16, knockout phase.

"We've got four difficult games ahead and to emerge from this group we will have to grit our teeth," said Conte.

Conte on Tuesday had warned of the threat from Galatasaray, who appointed Roberto Mancini, the former Manchester City handler who enjoyed years of success with Inter Milan, to replace Fatih Terim.

It was clear from the outset, given the little time Mancini had had with his players, the Turks would be going out to defend and hope to hit Juve on the counter-attack.

The ploy worked a treat, Didier Drogba pouncing on a wayward backpass from defender Leonardo Bonucci and, after Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon had come off his line in panic, slotting home a Galatasaray's opener on 36 minutes.

Juve spurned several chances to level against a packed backline and were only given a lifeline in the 78th minute when Arturo Vidal converted from the penalty spot after Fabio Quagliarella tumbled in the area under a soft challenge.

Mancini later said: "We were unlucky. I don't think it was a penalty."

The Italian, sacked from City last May after their shock defeat to Wigan in the final of the FA Cup, added: "The game changed after the penalty. Juve began to create more chances and we didn't deal well with a cross and they scored."

Quagliarella headed home minutes after Juve's equaliser to send Juventus Stadium into raptures.

But just as some of the home fans began to leave the stadium convinced the win was sealed, Galatasaray pounced on another Juventus blunder to stun their hosts with a late equaliser.

Juve's defence was nowhere to be seen when Galatasaray broke on the counter and Drogba delivered for the unmarked Umut Bulut who beat Buffon easily from close range.

On his first game in charge since his City sacking it was a massive result for Mancini, who was appointed after Terim was sacked in the wake of a 6-1 humiliation by Real Madrid in Istanbul.

Galatasaray may sit bottom of Group B with one point to their name, the same as Copenhagen, but they are only one shy of Juventus and are now in with a chance of fighting for second spot and a place in the last 16 knockout phase.

While Mancini remained coy over those chances, he warned that Juventus's campaign is not over yet.

"I don't think Real Madrid will beat Juventus twice. I've seen them (Real) twice recently and don't think they're in such great form," said Mancini.

"I think the group is still quite open, but we will have to improve ahead of our next game against Copenhagen."

Juventus's next two group games come against Real Madrid, on October 25 and November 5 -- by which time Conte is likely to have a far clearer idea of their qualification chances.

But he admitted: "We had to dig deep to overturn the result tonight and we had succeeded. But from now on it's going to be long and uphill."

Source: AFP