Ranieri defends axing Juventus captain Del Piero

Juventus coach Claudio Ranieri waved away criticism of his decision to axe Alessandro del Piero for yesterday's 1-1 draw with Fiorentina.

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Vincenzo Iaquinta had given Juve the lead, but a last-minute spot-kick from Adrian Mutu for Nicola Legrottaglie's handling offence equalised.

Ranieri said: "I needed Iaquinta as he is a player who attacks space and, knowing we would be under pressure, needed two fast wingers. That is all there is to it."

The Juve boss also left out Tiago, who is being linked with a return to Portugal in January.

"Sergio Almiron is a splendid player and when we put together the squad we tried to form a real team. Almiron can play or not and the same goes for Tiago. I pick players thinking of who can help us win, not who cost more on the transfer market."

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