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Top Italian clubs reflect on failures

ROME,Italy, May 17- While a lot of attention has been focussed this Serie A season on the surprisingly positive campaigns of Napoli, Lazio and Udinese, there are three other teams whose failures have been just as notable.

While the other three were surpassing expectations and battling for a place in next season’s Champions League, Juventus, Roma and Sampdoria have been the big losers this term.

And each one has staked their claim for the biggest of the under-achievers.

First there is Roma who finished second last year, missing out on the title by two points, paying dearly for a home defeat to Samp four matches from the end of the season.

They began this term with high hopes of going one further and strengthened with the signings of forward Marco Borriello from AC Milan and midfielder Simplicio from Palermo.

Last season, Claudio Ranieri took over from Luciano Spalletti after two games and two defeats with the club bottom of the table.

But the club would later go on a record 24-match unbeaten run, based on a rock solid defence.

But from the word go, this season was fraught with disappointments.

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Roma never really looked like challenging for the title and when they lost four games in a row in February, Ranieri walked before he could be pushed.

Three of those defeats left Roma playing catch-up in the race for a Champions League finish while the fourth was a home loss to Shahktar Donetsk that preceded their eventual elimination from Europe’s premier competition.

Rookie Vincenzo Montella took over but could not significantly change the club’s fortunes.

They crashed out of Europe in the last 16 thrashed 6-2 on aggregate by Shakhtar, then went their Italian Cup hopes in the semi-finals and finally Sunday’s 2-1 defeat at lowly Catania ended their Champions League aspirations.

Then there is Sampdoria, who surprised everyone in finishing fourth last season under Luigi Delneri and qualified for the final Champions League qualifying round.

That result earnt Delneri a move to Juventus but things started to go wrong early for his successor Domenico Di Carlo.

Samp conceded a goal three minutes into injury time against Werder Bremen and then lost out in extra-time in their Champions League play-off.

Their league campaign was not as successful as the previous season but they were at least in European contention until a bust-up between star striker Antonio Cassano and president Riccardo Garrone.

Cassano was banished from the team in mid-October and sold to Milan in January, while Garrone also decided to cash in on Giampaolo Pazzini.

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Selling their two best players and successful strike partnership was a disastrous move for Samp, they scored a paltry 13 goals in 21 games since their attacking duo left.

With their form slumping, Di Carlo paid the price and was replaced by Alberto Cavasin.

Sunday’s 2-1 home defeat to to Palermo ensured Samp became the first team in Italy to be relegated the season after qualifying for the Champions League.

And lastly there’s Juventus.

The Turin giants spent heavily in the summer, bringing in 10 new players and adding three more in January — amongst them all were seven Italy internationals — but even so they could not significantly improve on last season’s calamitous campaign.

A seventh placed finish had seen them suffer a record number of defeats and goals conceded, although they did at least qualify for the Europa League.

This time they started out quite well and were briefly second but they started the new year with seven defeats in 11 games.

Their 1-0 defeat at Parma on Sunday means they have to beat Napoli in their last game and hope Roma lose at home to Sampdoria or they will miss out on Europe altogether next season.

One of Roma and Juve won’t be playing in Europe in 2011/12 and their fellow failures Samp will have a say in their destiny.

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It’s a bitter irony in a forgettable season for all three.

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