Juventus on course to ensure Ranieri the sack
If Claudio Ranieri is a man at risk of losing one of the biggest jobs in football, then he is certainly hiding any concern very well.
The coach appeared pretty sanguine after seeing Juventus booted out of the Italian Cup by a pretty nifty Lazio side Ã¢ÂÂ and maybe he believes the ever-more vocal assurances coming from the suits at the club that his job is safe.
However, the question has to be asked, do the players want dear old Claudio in charge in next season?
You have to doubt it after the way they went about trying to claw back a 2-1 deficit from the first leg on Wednesday.
Lazio triumph in Turin
If the coach didn Ã¢ÂÂt seem to have a care in the world at the final whistle, then his players demonstrated the same attitude during the game.
With so much riding on the outcome, Ranieri would of course be expected to field his strongest side. Instead, he left Alex Del Piero, Mauro Camoranesi and Pavel Nedved on the bench.
A Lazio acquaintance of Serie Aaaaargh! claimed that after winning the derby, his side would not lose a game for the reminder of the season.
Not a bad wager and an equally tempting one would be Juventus not winning another game either.
Just looking at the bench behind Ranieri on Wednesday evening it was like one of those scenes from a World War I battlefield, where the officer goes over the top and the soldiers remain in the trenches to leave him to his fate.
The aforementioned trio may outwardly have given off a united front of 'see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil' but you just got the feeling that inwardly it was quite the opposite.
Claudio: Cool as a cucumber
A goal down at the end of the first-half and the big names still in their tracksuits, it was a no-win situation for the lonesome boss.
On came the three Ã¢ÂÂsavioursÃ¢ÂÂ and off Camoranesi trudged near the end - the proud owner of two consecutive red cards.
Only Del Piero put up any half-hearted resistance and flashed home a consolation goal when the score was 2-0.
Whistles and boos once again in Turin but this time they were totally justified.
Ranieri is definitely a proud man who has had to shoulder the burden of attempting to rebuild a totally discredited Juventus from the ruins of Calciopoli, and he must know better than anyone when he is being stabbed in the back.
Meanwhile over in Milan, Jose Mourinho had the knives out for the referee after Inter failed to overcome their 3-0 deficit Sampdoria had set the league leaders from the first leg.
Samp celebrate at the San Siro
The Nerazzurri gave it their best shot Ã¢ÂÂ with most of them coming back off the woodwork - but in the end had only Zlatan IbrahimovicÃ¢ÂÂs stunning volley to celebrate.
Of course, the Portuguese accepted the exit gracefully, claiming that the official only blew his whistle against one side and they werenÃ¢ÂÂt wearing black and blue.
So no Mourinho-Ranieri tussle in the final then, but for the neutrals Lazio on home turf against Antonio Cassano should make the showpiece a must-see... for once.
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