Del Piero leads line of superstars
FOR all involved with Shamrock Rovers, there's been precious little time to take a deep breath since their heroics in Israel set up this week's dream date with Juventus.
Between negotiating TV deals, unsuccessfully lobbying for extra seats, facilitating the sale of tickets and trying to get around the pre-match logistics, the behind-the-scenes activity has been frantic for the club officials.
Meanwhile, Michael O'Neill and his players have only a short window to prepare for a mammoth challenge that will be completely different from the norm, although their recuperation was aided by the cancellation of last night's scheduled league meeting with UCD.
They will encounter a Juventus side with plenty of familiar names in their ranks and a new manager in the shape of Luigi Delneri, recruited after he steered Sampdoria into the Champions League qualifiers.
It means there's an element of guesswork about the side that will actually display their wares down Whitestown Way on Thursday, with his tenure only at the getting-to-know-you stage.
Gianluigi Buffon and Vincenzo Iaquinta are injured, while the members of the squad who were involved in the World Cup are being phased back in to the picture at different intervals.
Delneri got a look at his new charges in their 2-1 friendly victory over Lyon on Saturday. With La Liga now more prominent on Irish television screens than Serie A, the star names in the Juve ranks may not trip off the tongue immediately. Here's a look at some of their more notable performers who may feature over the two legs:
ALESSANDRO DEL PIERO
The skipper is still going at the age of 35, an impressive 17 years after he joined the Old Lady from Padova. A World Cup winner in 2006, who has racked up a host of personal accolades in an illustrious career, Del Piero has scored over 300 goals for the club.
The central defender is well known to Kevin Doyle, who battled with the hard man during Ireland's World Cup campaign. A fiery character, famous for inflicting injuries on the training ground ahead of Euro 2008, Chiellini was part of the Italian defence that capitulated in South Africa. Was pitched in for the Lyon game. Linked with a move to Real Madrid but insists he wants to stay.
You may remember him as the man who effectively ended Brazil's World Cup hopes by scoring an own goal against Holland and then going one better by getting himself sent off. The holding midfielder could be rested for the first leg, although he is back in training. A €25m purchase from Fiorentina.
The French striker is now in the veteran stage of a career where the highlight was his golden-goal winner to deliver Euro 2000 glory at the expense of Italy. Has spent a decade with Juve but retired from international football two years ago, primarily because Raymond Domenech was retained as boss. Wise move.
The 24-year-old is expected to be a prominent member of the Italian side going forward as they regroup after World Cup humiliation. The hard-tackling midfield player, who grew up in Turin, is a favourite of the Bianconeri.
The man who slotted home the winning penalty in the 2006 World Cup has struggled with injury and form over the past year, duly losing his place in Italy's finals squad. Excelled against Ireland in the qualifiers, though.
The ex-Liverpool man was sold to Juventus for €11m and was a mainstay in a defensive midfield position under ex-boss Claudio Ranieri. Likely to partner Marchisio in the engine room.
The Argentine-born but Italian-declared midfielder has fond memories of Irish soil, after scoring at Croke Park in last October's 2-2 draw. May not start in Tallaght, however.
Juve paid €24.5m to prise the Brazilian away from Werder Bremen. A playmaker who can also operate in an attacking role, he linked well with Trezeguet in the win over Lyon. Sure to be a thorn in Rovers' side.
The 33-year-old Bosnian has struggled to find perfect health in his three years since moving from Bayern Munich, where he really made his name. Another star lingering in the background.
A winger with a complicated transfer history. On loan from Udinese with a view to a permanent move, the Italian international struck the decisive goal against Lyon. Featured in both World Cup qualifiers against Ireland, setting up Vincenzo Iaquinta for that heartbreaking equaliser at Croker.