Juventus Review: all downhill towards the third star!
By Marco Fumagalli
The third season for Antonio Conte as head coach of Juventus; after two consecutive Serie A titles, the "old Lady" seems headed for a third without probably having any competitor in Italy. Next Scudetto would be officially number 30 which would allow Juventus to wear the third star on their jersey. The focus will also be on the Champions League where coach Conte is hungry to do more and improve on last season when the bianconeri had a two games dry spell against Bayern Munich. Let's have a look at the squad for this season.
Goalkeeper. Vote 9/10
No surprises in this department and why would there be when your starting goalkeeper is legendary World Champion and Italian National Team captain Gianluigi Buffon? Despite him getting older and perhaps not being as reactive and explosive, his immense experience and knowledge of the game make him still one of the top goalkeepers in the entire World.
Marco Storari is perhaps more than a substitute as he could easily be a starter in any Serie A team; third choice Rubinho is also an experienced goalkeeper who completes the best trio of goalkeeper in Serie A.
Defense. Vote 9/10
In Italy it's common knowledge that the best defense is the one that will make you win Serie A. Juventus, on top of having by far the most solid defense including 3 of the 4 starters of the Italian National Team, didn't stay and watch the opponents and transferred another National Team player from the city neighbours Torino: Ogbonna.
He's a perfect substitute for Leonardo Bonucci and could also give Giorgio Chiellini some rest in lower profile matches. Barzagli-Bonucci-Chiellini should be the starting defense again.
Martin Caceres and Frederico Peluso are high level substitutes which guarantee Conte experience and efficiency; Caceres can relieve Andrea Barzagli while Peluso can substitue Chiellini or also play as left midfielder if needed.
This is by far one of the strongest defensive department seen in years, probably since Milan's Tassotti-Costacurta-Baresi-Maldini-Galli.
If Juve won't be champion again, the reason won't be because of their defense for sure.
Midfield. Vote 9/10
As for the defense, coach Conte for his midfield can count on World top level players. Andrea Pirlo will still be the key player and playmaker in front of the defense supported by Aruto Vidal and Claudio Marchisio who also will have the task of diving into the opponent's lines and support the offense.
U20 World Champion, France U20 Captain and Player of the Tournament Paul Pogba will be more than a substitute this season as Conte will try to keep Pirlo as fresh as possible for the second part of the season. Marchisio's injury will also give precious minutes to Pogba. Simone Padoin is a versatile substitute who can get minutes in Coppa Italia or minor Serie A games.
As far as the wings which are the most delicate spot of Conte's tactic, the Italian coach will count again with Asamoah on the left and Lichtsteiner on the right as starters; De Ceglie and Peluso are possible substitutes on the left side while Pepe is the other option on the right. Giaccherini is gone and will not be missed.
Offense. Vote 9/10
If there was a department that was not at the same level as the rest of the team last season for Juve, perhaps it was the offense. The transfer market brought Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez which leave Conte with no alibis to perform well in Champions League. Mirko Vucinic and Giovinco are more than excellent substitutes and also leave coach Conte with more tactical options thanks to their characteristics; Fabio Quagliarella will probably have a hard time finding minutes this season.
Coach. Vote 8/10
After 2 consecutive Serie A titles Juventus Coach Antonio Conte decided to stay and try to improve the teams record in Champions League as the Club convinced him to stay by buying the top level forwards he had asked for.
While contemporary football is oriented to a 4 men defense with offensive full backs, Conte's inner Italian side is making him opt for a 3 men defense which in fact becomes 5 when defending low in European high level matches where Juve is not able to press the opponents like they are used to in Serie A against weaker teams.
Conte's international experience and his talent as motivator makes him a perfect fit for Juve at the moment.
Serie A: Winner
Champions League: Quarter Final
Coppa Italia: Quarter Final at least on 22 January 2014 in Rome against AS Roma.
Possible Starting Formation: 3-5-2
Barzagli - Bonucci - Chiellini
Lichtsteiner - Vidal - Pirlo - Marchisio - Asamoah
Vucinic - Tevez
With Marchisio and Vucinic injuries Pogba and Llorente should take their place.