Champions Juventus seek Euro renaissance

Serie A champions Juventus take on Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals on Tuesday looking to once again stamp their authority on European football.

Champions Juventus seek Euro renaissance
Serie A champions Juventus take on Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals on Tuesday. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Massimiliano Allegri's side sealed their fourth straight league triumph with a 1-0 win at Sampdoria on Saturday, but the celebrations were muted, with everyone at the club aware of the importance of the two upcoming matches with the Spanish giants.

"For various reasons we can't celebrate the title the way we have on other occasions, because the importance of Tuesday's game is undeniable," admitted Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini.

Last year, Juve crashed out embarrassingly in the group stages of the Champions League, before going on to lose a Europa League semi-final with Benfica.

The previous season they were taken apart 4-0 on aggregate in the quarter-finals by eventual European champions Bayern Munich.

They go into the semi-final seen by most as the weakest side left in the competition, and Madrid have a team of superstars of the sort that Juve would have once had.

Juve also had a favourable draw in the knockout stages, playing – and destroying – a stuttering Borussia Dortmund in the second round and the mediocre French side Monaco in the quarters.

Should they get by Madrid they would face either Barcelona or Bayern.

All three sides are a considerable step above the sides they are used to taking on, but with the Madrid clash coming at a time when Italian football is looking to re-establish itself on the European stage after years in the doldrums, Juve are hoping to lead a long-overdue Italian renaissance.

"We're very happy for what we've done, and for some of the football we've played, in particular at Dortmund," said Allegri on Saturday.

"In life you always need to learn and improve. We're in the semis of the Champions League and we have Napoli and Fiorentina playing in the Europa League semis, so I think that our league is improving."

A win also be further vindication for Allegri, who arrived at Juventus in a shower of spit and eggs launched by fans livid with his appointment as the replacement for the beloved Antonio Conte.

He has long since won over everyone at the club, including club chairman Andrea Agnelli.

"Taking this team in hand and getting it to win again takes balls," Agnelli said on Twitter on Saturday night.

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Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players’ ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome

Italy’s national football team reportedly insisted on taking an open-top bus tour through Rome to show off their European Championship trophy to crowds of fans - despite city authorities forbidding it amid concern about the spread of coronavirus.

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players' ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The team’s bus parade through the city on Monday night following their Euro 2020 triumph “was not authorised”, according to Matteo Piantedosi the head of Rome’s prefettura (the public safety authority).

Thousands of fans packed the streets of central Rome to see the team celebrate their cup win after beating England on penalties in the final.

READ ALSO: ‘Football came home’: Italy celebrates Euro 2020 victory over England

Piantedosi told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday: “We had denied permission to celebrate Italy’s victory in the European Championships on the open bus, but the pact was not respected.”

Piantedosi, who is Rome’s top public security official, said police had “no choice” but to let the parade go ahead after players Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci insisted on it.

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

A meeting had been held on Friday with the Italian football federation (FIGC) to discuss plans for the celebrations if Italy won, said Piantedosi.

“I had agreed the line with Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and Chief of Police Lamberto Giannini,” he said.

“It was clearly explained that [the parade] was not possible. We said we could not authorize it.”

Piantedosi said the Italian football federation (FIGC) initially agreed to hold a “controlled” ceremony in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo instead of the parade.

After players insisted on the bus tour on Monday however, Piantedosi said, authorities reluctantly let them go ahead due to fears of sparking public disorder.

“At that point we had no choice but to acknowledge the situation and handle it in the best way we could,” he said.

READ ALSO: Covid cases on the rise in Europe once again as WHO warns of Euro 2020 risk

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

In a statement on Wednesday, the FIGC said it had acted responsibly but decided not to disappoint fans who had come to celebrate with the team.

Footage of large crowds thronging the bus carrying the ‘Azzurri’ and the European Championship trophy through the capital however fuelled concerns about new outbreaks of coronavirus, after Italy’s infection rate began to rise again last week.

The World Health Organization warned earlier this month that crowds and gatherings connected to football matches will fuel a new rise in cases across Europe this summer.

READ ALSO: Delta variant in Italy will be ‘prevalent within 10 days’: health official

Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza also voiced concerns on Monday about the consequences of people gathering to watch sporting events.

He said the European football championship win was “a great joy after terrible months,” but “even in these moments of national pride we can’t forget that our ‘game’ to defeat Covid is not yet won.”

There are currently minimal health restrictions in place across Italy, however masks are supposed to be worn in crowded public places, including outdoors.

“Footage shows that police were virtually the only ones [in the crowd] wearing masks,” said Piantedosi.