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The Bianconeri have bought well so far this summer, and with one more vital addition they could now be potential winners in Europe

COMMENT
By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Editor

It was in February and March that Juventus suffered their first really testing time on the injury front in 2011-12. With Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli ruled out with short-term problems, La Vecchia Signora were left having to convert Arturo Vidal into a makeshift centre-back as people began to question whether their lack of depth would scupper their bid for the Serie A title.

Those testing times saw Juve draw six out of seven games, but they would win 10 of their last 11 when back to a full complement, to rob AC Milan of the title and return to the top of the Italian game. The next step is the top of Europe, and it appears that Antonio Conte and the club’s hierarchy are on the right track as they aim to strengthen their squad significantly enough to make a decent fist of the Champions League in 2012-13.

Last season, they had the likes of Simone Padoin, Marco Borriello and an ageing Alessandro Del Piero as their first alternatives in case of injury or suspension, but in the campaign ahead they will find themselves with a much stronger bench.

The double signings of Kwadwo Asamoah and Mauricio Isla from Udinese represents a huge step forward for the club. While the Chilean has shown fantastic form and versatility in any right-sided slot or in the centre of midfield during his time with the Zebrette, Asamoah has quite simply been one of the best performers in Serie A in recent years.

The Ghanaian has quietly gone about his business of being the driving force of the Udinese side that qualified for the Champions League play-offs in successive seasons. Those who questioned whether Francesco Guidolin could get a decent campaign out of his team following last summer’s sale of Gokhan Inler failed to appreciate that it was Asamoah, not the Swiss, who had been their key in 2010-11. His performances helped to lead them to a top-three finish, with his drive, durability, coolness on the ball and superb timing of runs at the heart of their purple patch at the season’s end in particular.

He should, by right, be in the Juve starting XI from day one in the campaign ahead, but if he doesn’t it won’t be long until he is. Not that he won’t have competition for places, with Claudio Marchisio having played 36 times last term alongside Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal, who have each made themselves sure-fire starters.

JUVENTUS' POTENTIAL OPTIONS IN 2012-13

GOALKEEPER

Gianluigi Buffon
(or Marco Storari)

RIGHT-BACK
CENTRE-BACK
CENTRE-BACK
LEFT-BACK

Stephan Lichtsteiner
(Martin Caceres)
(Mauricio Isla)

Andrea Barzagli
(Lucio)
(Martin Caceres)

Giorgio Chiellini
(Leonardo Bonucci)


Paolo De Ceglie
(Federico Balzaretti?)
(Giorgio Chiellini)

CENTRE MIDFIELD
CENTRE MIDFIELD
CENTRE MIDFIELD

Arturo Vidal
(Simone Padoin)


Andrea Pirlo
(Luca Marrone)


Kwadwo Asamoah
(Claudio Marchisio)
(Emanuele Giaccherini)

RIGHT FORWARD
CENTRE FORWARD
LEFT FORWARD

Mauricio Isla
(Simone Pepe)

??
(Alessandro Matri)

Sebastian Giovinco
(Mirko Vucinic)

The very fact that one of Marchisio and Asamoah is likely to be benched for some part of the season points to a much deeper squad being available to Conte. The same can also be said for the back line, with Lucio’s arrival from Inter and Martin Caceres’ permanent signing from Sevilla adding both quantity and quality.

Throw in Sebastian Giovinco’s return from Parma, and some of the more pressing issues in the Bianconeri squad have been dealt with. The one last spot that needs attention, though, is the prima punta ... the leading man in attack

Juve famously struggled for goals last term, despite fashioning more chances than any other side in the Italian game. Yet so far a striker is the one target they have been unable to find.

Alessandro Matri, Mirko Vucinic, Fabio Quagliarella, Borriello and Vincenzo Iaquinta remain on the books, but all have been profligate during their spells in black and white. And if Juve are to have real hope of going deep in the Champions League, then they need to add true world-class firepower to their forward line.

Strikers who score goals can make all the difference between a team of nearly men and one of heroes, but there is not one centre forward in the Turin side’s squad who can be counted on to net between 20 and 30 goals a season. That could be Juve’s failing if they don’t go for broke in the chase for an ace marksman.

Names including Edinson Cavani and Neymar continue to be linked with the club, while Mario Balotelli and Robin van Persie have both been ruled out of the equation for now. Whoever comes in, though, somebody with goals in the locker has to arrive in order to give the Bianconeri the strength up front that they have all across the rest of their squad.

If they can make such an addition of quality, then there’s plenty of reason to believe that a side with a possible substitutes’ bench of Marco Storari, Caceres, Lucio, Marchisio, Emanuele Giaccherini, Vucinic and Matri can make great waves in the Champions League.

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