Ferrara clinging onto Italian Cup hopes

MILAN - Juventus coach Ciro Ferrara needs another Italian Cup victory to keep the wolves from the door - the only problem is Thursday's quarter-final is against an imperious Inter Milan.

While Inter are ecstatic after Sunday's 2-0 derby win over AC Milan, where they finished with nine men, old rivals Juve are at their lowest ebb since their 2006 match-fixing demotion.

Saturday's 2-1 home defeat by AS Roma was sixth-placed Juve's fifth loss in six Serie A matches while the Turin club was also booted out of the Champions League in December.

Rookie coach Ferrara has hung on to his job largely thanks to a 3-0 win over Napoli in the Italian Cup last 16 on January 13.

The lack of an obvious replacement has aided Ferrara's cause and means he could stay in the job for Thursday's game.

Russia Guus Hiddink has been linked in the media with Juve but reports say he asked for too much money. Juve deny contact.

The idea of a caretaker until the end of the season has also been discussed in the media with ex-Chelsea coach Gianluca Vialli, an ex-Juve team mate and friend of Ferrara, mooted.

"It would be like going to bed with the wife of a friend," the television pundit told Sky. "I've not been called."


Juve's injury problems mean their side almost names itself for Thursday -- not that Ferrara would risk leaving out top players with his job on the line.

Serie A leaders Inter meanwhile could well rotate their squad for their least important competition but fans would still relish sending Juve into an even deeper pit of despair.

Jose Mourinho's side have remarkable resilience whoever plays, as shown by the backs-to-the-wall win over second-placed Milan which extended their Serie A lead to nine points.

While Milan have occasionally missed the departed Kaka and Paolo Maldini this term and Juve have hugely struggled without the retired Pavel Nedved, Inter have quickly forgotten former talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic since his July move to Barcelona.

But despite the euphoria over their derby performance, dominant Inter feel Italian football has turned against them.

Wesley Sneijder's harsh sending off in the derby for sarcastically applauding the referee after just 26 minutes has prompted strongly-worded criticism from Inter, who were already upset with authorities for the scheduling of Thursday's game.

Chastened Milan will play on the same battered San Siro pitch in their last eight tie with Udinese just a day before the high-profile Inter v Juve game.

Inter, who reports say could soon sign Lazio duo Aleksandar Kolarov and Cristian Ledesma, failed to change the dates.

In-form AS Roma have lost Luca Toni to injury for possibly a month but will be confident of beating Catania in their quarter-final on Tuesday while Fiorentina are already in the semis after a 3-2 win over holders Lazio last week.