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Juve to treat Haifa like Real, says Chiellini

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Juve to treat Haifa like Real, says Chiellini

ROME (AFP) – Juventus will not be underestimating group minnows Maccabi Haifa when the Israelis come to Turin in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Maccabi sit bottom of Group A after two defeats to Bayern Munich and Bordeaux while Juve are only one place and two points above them after having drawn against the same two teams.

But despite Haifa’s limited European pedigree, Juve centre-back Giorgio Chiellini insisted his team will treat their opponents like the greats of European football.

Last year Juve beat Real Madrid home and away in the group stages before they fell to Chelsea in the first knock-out round.

“On Wednesday we have to play with the same intensity we showed a year ago against Real,” said Chiellini.

“In this match and in the next one in Tel Aviv (Haifa’s ground does not meet UEFA standards so they play Champions League matches in Tel Aviv’s national stadium) are matches we have to win at any cost so we can make it to the last two group games in the best possible health.

“We don’t know much about Maccabi, personally I know the striker (Vladimir) Dvalishvili because I came up against him for the national team against Georgia last month.

“They’re a team that must be respected for what they did against Bayern Munich and Bordeaux when they were only beaten at the end of the games.”

Juve’s overriding problem on Wednesday might not be Maccabi but themselves.

After a great start to the season in which they won their first four Serie A matches, including successive away wins at AS Roma and Lazio, they have not won in five matches (four in Serie A and one in the Champions League).

In fact they have only one win in seven matches in all competitions and that came at home to rock-bottom Livorno and thanks to a man-of-the-match performance from goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

That is hardly the form of potential champions, either of Italy or of Europe.

However, it is a remarkably similar situation to that faced by Juve a year ago when Real were the visitors to Turin at the same stage of the competition.

Back then, as now, they had not won in five matches only their situation was worse as they had lost two of those five — instead of just one this time — and were struggling in the league with only nine points and two wins from seven games.

This time they are third in the table and only four points behind leaders and champions Inter Milan.

“Then we were also in a delicate period. In the league things were going worse because we had already lost twice and we were lower in the table,” added Chiellini.

“On top of that we had a crisis due to many injuries. The win against Real Madrid represented a reawakening for us and after that we went on a winning run that put us back in the title picture.

“It needs to be the same this time around.”

The importance of this match for Juve’s season cannot be understated as they risk falling into a dangerous spiral.

Confidence is low and their results have been a fair reflection of their play.

They were fortunate to earn a draw against Bordeaux in the Champions League while their only defeat in this sequence, against Palermo, saw them dominated.

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