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Offside - 7 December

07 Dec 2012 | 12:30-Tony Palumbo

It was a triumphant conclusion for Italian clubs in the UEFA Champions League preliminary phase, with both both Juventus and AC Milan going through.

Silvio Berlusconi's team made it despite losing at home to Zenit St. Petersburg.

Juventus had a much tougher task away to Shakhtar Donetsk. The Italian giant needed a draw, but ended up with a win after an own goal by Olexandr Chucher and claimed first spot in Group E.

It was a great achievement for the team from Turin on its return to Europe's elite competition after the demotion to Serie B for buying a match or two.

And the celebrations will continue this weekend with the return of coach Antonio Conte after his disqualification.

However, dark clouds are on the horizon as he still has to answer more allegations in front of the Italian Federation's tribunal.

Juventus players Sebastian Giovinco, Claudio Marchisio and Paolo De Ceglie have one thing in common: they were playing in the Juventus youth team when Gian Piero Gasperini was coaching it. They'll meet again on Monday (AEDT) when Juventus meets Palermo, now coached by Gasperini.

In the UEFA Europa League Udinese, already eliminated, lost at home to Liverpool (0-1). The match, for the home team, had only one purpose: allowing Antonio Di Natale to equal the Valerio Bertotto’s record of 33 matches played in European competitions. Napoli, already qualified, managed to lose at home (1-3) despite an opening goal scored by Edinson Cavani.

Do you know of one single football coach in the world who would not want to have Daniele De Rossi in his first team - any time, any day, any match? Well, there is one: his current boss at AS Roma, Zdenek Zeman.

De Rossi has just finished serving his three-week suspension, and is available for selection for the important home match with Fiorentina.

Will he be rushed back in the first team? No way. But Zeman, bless his soul, is "thinking about it". According to him, "De Rossi has not blended in with the team". He was serious. Amazing, considering that the player has been a regular in the first team since 2003.

The Appeals Tribunal of the Italian Football Federation is examining the appeals of the various protagonists sentenced to the football equivalent of a life sentence: a disqualification for three-and-a-half years. The latest are three major referees, Tiziano Pieri, Tullio Lanese and Paolo Dondarini.

Manchester City is out of European competition and the knives are in. City is "the worst English team of all times in the Champions League" according to the Daily Star. The Times states that in Dortmund “we witnessed an authentic humiliation". The Mirror emphasizes that "the stars were beaten by the Borussia reserves". Only winning the Premier League will save Roberto Mancini from a cruel fate.

One Diego Armando Maradona (junior) is back in Naples. After winning a silver medal at the Beach Volley World Championship, Diego will play for San Giorgio a Cremano, near Naples, in the local fifth division.

Not many youngsters are capable of reaching the heights of their fathers, Sandro Mazzola being a notable exception. Diego junior is the latest, sad confirmation that football is not horse racing. Blood does not guarantee good ball control.

Max Allegri, the AC Milan coach, has finally discovered what observers have been emphasising for months. The defence of his team is a joke, having leaked 25 goals in 21 matches. "The team must grow up and be tougher" he has stated. A suggestion? Gianluca Zambrotta is available and training with Como. Could his recall help?

When Roma and Fiorentina take to the field at the Olympic Stadium this weekend, some Fiorentina officials and players may feel a bit confused. Daniele Prade (general manager), Vincenzo Montella (coach), and players David Pizarro, Alberto Aquilani, Luca Toni and Cristiano Lucarelli have all been associated with Roma in the past. Get the paper napkins ready, and pray they will sit on the right bench.

Mario Balotelli has become a father. His long-term (and long-suffering) girlfriend Raffaella Fico has given birth to a girl, Pia. We'll hear about this girl for the next 20 years. Regrettably, I won't be around for most of them. So, good luck to you.

Can't fall asleep at night? Try Mancini -This is fooball. This book, written by journalists Alberto Dalla Palma and Paolo Franci, reveals a few previously unknown anecdotes from Mancini's life. And his dream: coaching the Italian national team ... a dream for him and nightmare for Italian supporters some would say.

And now, further proof that things - no matter how bad they are - can always get worse. The one and only Claudio Lotito, Chairman of Lazio, has given Italian voters something to think about. He may stand as a candidate at the next election, early next year. Just when we thought that Italian politics could not possibly sink even lower.

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Tony Palumbo

A journalist with decades of experience on TV and radio, Tony is an expert on all things Italian - including football. Read More.

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