Juventus in need of serious overhaul

MILAN, May 2 (Reuters) - Interim coach Alberto Zaccheroni's statement that Juventus do not need wholesale changes in the close season will surprise many of their suffering fans.

Media reports predict Liverpool coach Rafael Benitez will take over for next term but whoever arrives has a vast job on their hands given the players have lacked passion and cohesion.

Serie A's most successful and biggest-supported club will not be playing in the Champions League next season after Sunday's 1-1 draw at Catania left the seventh-placed side eight points behind fourth spot with just two games left.

Embarrassing defeats to Bayern Munich and Fulham also knocked Juve out of the Champions League and Europa League.

Ex-AC Milan boss Zaccheroni, who succeeded the sacked Ciro Ferrara in January after three years out of work, was unusually frank about his situation and what the club had to do next.

"I think it's not my problem, it's a problem for the club as I'm just contracted until June 30. They don't need loads of changes but of course something is lacking," he told Sky TV.

"I've never blamed injuries, there were injuries before I arrived. But there has been a lack of general fitness. I've not been able to train the team because we have played every three days. Brilliance arrives from having a strong physical condition. As a group we haven't managed that."

As a group they have managed very little since Claudio Ranieri, now enjoying a superb campaign for double-chasing AS Roma, was surprisingly sacked towards the end of last term.

Rookie Ferrara, the youth team coach, secured Champions League football in the final two games of last season but the club's close-season signings horribly backfired.

Expensive Brazilian midfielders Felipe Melo and Diego have been spectacular flops but fans say Juve's biggest mistake was not persuading the retired Pavel Nedved to stay on another year.

Without the Czech left winger, Juve lost their traditional 4-4-2 shape and this season the team have looked like strangers.

Supporters are used to recent adversity after the club had to spend the 2006/07 season in Serie B because of a match-fixing demotion but this term has been almost as painful.

Money is available to buy players, despite an new stadium being built for 2011, with the appointment of president Andrea Agnelli in midweek showing the commitment of the heirs to the FIAT fortune who control the club.

Midfielder Claudio Marchisio, a rare bright spot this term having broken into the Italy team, praised Benitez .

"He's obviously a very good coach, he's done great things at Liverpool but these are just rumours in newspapers," he said.

"We've conceded so many goals, 50, which is way too many for a team like Juventus."