Fans blame horse track for Juventus injuries

MILAN - Juventus, who visit Sampdoria on Sunday with a full treatment room, have suffered so many recent injuries that fans have even blamed the training ground's proximity to a horse racing track as a root of the problem.

No one has come up with a serious suggestion as why this would affect the health of players, as opposed to their bank balances, but the high-tech Vinovo centre is under scrutiny.

Fluctuating temperatures and high humidity at their training ground compared to their former base prior to 2006 have been mentioned as possible causes of muscle injuries in media probes.

"There are lots of injuries and this is the reality for Juve and it's tough," midfielder Alberto Aquilani told reporters having remarkably avoided any knocks in his first season at Juve after an injury-riddled time at Liverpool.

Former coach Alberto Zaccheroni ordered his own investigation last term and the surfaces of the Vinovo pitches were improved in case they were to blame but injuries have continued.

Luca Toni suffered tweaks in his first two Juve games and is out for weeks while fellow striker Vincenzo Iaquinta and midfielder Claudio Marchisio (pictured) have had a string of muscle pulls.

Fabio Quagliarella's probable season-ending knee injury was just bad luck as was the broken nose for Amauri, who may wear a protective mask against fading Sampdoria.

However, the constant chopping and changing in Luigi Del Neri's team is not helping sixth-placed Juve's title challenge.

"This isn't our best moment given the numerous injuries. I hope we can get them fit now," said Alessandro Del Piero, the only available striker in last Sunday's 2-1 win over Bari.

"From here on in, there aren't so many midweek games and we will have to be clever to make the most of this situation."

Juve's early exit from the Europa League could indeed be a blessing as they seek to take advantage of AC Milan's wobble at the top, despite losing their first two league games of the year before fighting off Bari.

Milan have drawn 4-4 with Udinese and 1-1 at Lecce in their last two Serie A games to leave their lead at four points.

Sunday's late kick-off at home to Cesena, who beat the Rossoneri at the start of the campaign and lost at resurgent champions Inter Milan on Wednesday, is suddenly a must-win for Milan.

Lazio, Napoli and AS Roma are all ready to pounce on further slip-ups but the biggest fear among Massimiliano Allegri's group is that Inter and former Milan boss Leonardo make more progress.

Wednesday's 3-2 win meant Inter, who have overcome the injury problems which dogged Rafael Benitez's spell in charge, are now just six points behind their city rivals with one more game in hand but Sunday's trip to in-form Udinese looks tricky.