With the new season now here, Goal.com has a look at the defending Scudetto champions and what has changed in their squad...Finally after six years, Juventus buried the ghosts of 2006 when the club was literally destroyed from top to bottom due to their involvement in the Calciopoli scandal, when they lifted their first Scudetto since 2003 (two titles in 2004-05 and 05-06 were revoked due to the match fixing allegations against them) last season going the entire season unbeaten. With a former player and captain as their manager, they achieved something that was deemed way beyond their reach as they lined up for the season with a very humble but united group of players.
After a hiatus of two disastrous seasons, the Bianconeri are finally back in the Champions League and while the nation’s hopes lie on their shoulders, their pre-season has only been marred by one controversy after another. Still trying to prove their innocence over the Calciopoli scandal, first the Turin giant were unnecessarily embroiled in a dispute regarding the inclusion of the third star on their kit, and were then haunted once again by another match fixing scandal that led to their inspirational manager being banned for 10-months.
However, new caretaker manager Massimo Carrera has made a bright start to his stint in Conte’s absence as Juventus defeated Napoli in Beijing to lift the first silverware of the season in the form of the Supercoppa Italiana or simply put, the Italian Super Cup. Below we look at how the club will line up this season as they embark on their journey to defend their Serie A title and carry the Italian flag in the Champions League.
Just like the versatile Conte, Massimo Carrera is expected to employ the 3-5-2 if the pre-season matches are anything to go by. With the players perfectly suited to play in this unique formation, Juventus will hope to enjoy the same amount of success they did last season.
With club captain Gianlugi Buffon donning the goalkeeping gloves, Juventus are expected to field the same successful trio infront of him in defense in the form of Italian internationals Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini. These players formed the most miserly defense last season in Serie A and will hope to continue with the brilliant partnership as they look to extend their unbeaten run in the league. They have enough cover in the form of Martin Caceres and new signing Lucio from Inter, who had previously been part of a three man defense during his time at Bayer Leverkusen.
Stephen Lichsteiner had a very fruitful first season at Turin, and is expected to continue in his role as the wing back marauding up and down the right flank with either one of Paolo De Ceglie or new signing Kwadwo Asamoah – who can also star in the centre of midfield - on the opposite left side of the field. Stuffed in between is one of the best midfield tridents in Italy with Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal on either side of Andrea Pirlo, who is coming back off a very successful Euros with the national team proving once again why he’s still amongst the best registas in the game.
Who starts upfront is still a big mystery as Carrera has tried everything from a Giovinvo-Matri partnership in the Super Cup to testing the compatibility of Vucinic and Giovinco in the Trofeo Luigi Berlusconi. Things however, may look more re-assuring if the Bianconeri manage to successfully sign potential target Fernando Llorente which would send Matri to the bench (if he is not sold) with either one of the Vucinic or Giovinco supporting the Spanish international.
With head coach Antonio Conte serving a 10-match touchline ban which was once again upheld by the court this week, Massimo Carrera is set to take on as the caretaker manager in the former Juventus captain’s absence. A former Bianconeri himself, Carrera has made a winning start to his managerial career by helping the side lift the Italian Super Cup and the Luigi Berlusconi trophy defeating the likes of Napoli and Milan in the process respectively.
Of course the ban does allow Conte to train the squad off the field, but with Juventus challenging on three fronts this season including the Champions league, his interim successor has a tough task in hand with huge shoes to fill.
No stranger to winning trophies, having won many a championships with Juventus as a player, it’ll be interesting to see how Carrera, who is also the technical Director of the Juventus Youth team, manages this peculiar partnership with his head coach as he will definitely try to prove he is not just a mere ghost-manager leading the team like a puppet with no say whatsoever with Conte calling the shots through written instructions on a piece of paper.
That one truly world class striker apart, Juventus were already a formidable side and have done really well in strengthening the squad further with the quality acquisition of Kwadwo Asamoah and Mauricio Isla from Udinese to add further depth in midfield. The duo have had a remarkable last season at the Stadio Friuli and will hope to continue their rich form with the Ghanaian having already made his presence felt with a goal in the Super Cup defeat of Napoli. Not to forget, the controversial signing of Paul Pogba after he declined to extend his contract at Old Trafford much to the fury of Sir Alex Ferguson that lends much credibility the Frenchman’s ability.
This season also finally ends the Giovinco saga, as the Atomic Ant finally makes a permanent move to his native city with many expecting him to fill in the giant shoes of club legend Alessandro Del Piero who was released by the club in May. The addition of former Brazil captain Lucio from Inter lends more experience to the back line as Juventus look set to defend their league title and launch an assault on the Champions League for the first time in three years.
Potential signings in crucial positions:
They may have the best goalkeeper, the best defense and the best midfield in Italy, but they are led by one of the most toothless attack in the country - a liability that is yet to be addressed with the transfer market nearing its end. Having been linked with Robin Van Persie all throughout the summer, his high wages meant the deal was never going to happen and expectedly the former Arsenal jumped ships to Manchester United ending even the faintest of hopes of some Oranje fireworks upfront.
However, the club have moved on from the Dutchman, to pursue Spanish international striker Fernando Llorente who just recently declined a contract extension at the Basque country, and the chase is expected to continue till the last day of the Mercato as a lot depends on their search for that one world class striker who will complete the team.
STRENGTHS & WEAKNESSES
Juventus’ strength solely lies in their rock solid defense that conceded a meager 20 goals throughout their unbeaten title run last season, and their powerful midfield which can be considered amongst the best three in Europe. The back four were first choice defenders for Italy in Poland and Ukraine, while the midfield is led by one of the most creative and influential deep lying midfielder in Andrea Pirlo who is expected to guide his team with his guile and slick passing game. His deputy, Arturo Vidal is amongst the best hard hitting midfielders in the continent today and together with Marchisio, the trio is set to take Europe by storm.
A lot has been said about their wasteful attack which lacks a truly world class reference point, and if they fail to sign Llorente from Bilbao this August, they are bound to find it hard in the Champions League. Juventus seem to be carrying the only realistic chance from the peninsula, with Milan having degraded to a totally new level following the departure of an entire team of stars, and the lack of reliable options upfront will seriously dent their chances this season. If the defense was miser which was their job, the attack seemed to have taken a cue as well accounting for a total of only 68 goals throughout the league campaign last season, much of which were scored towards the end of their title run. The fact that Alessandro Matri was their top scorer with a mere 10 goals to his credit should end the discussion.
While the problems upfront can still be solved with Llorente’s acquisition, what’s more worrying is the impact that Antonio Conte’s ban will have on their campaign with the club legend having been bestowed with much credit for their transformation last season. It’s going to be a long season, and even if the club claims to the contrary, his touchline ban may really hamper whatever’s been achieved since last year.
PLAYER TO SHINE
With great champions like Andrea Pirlo, Giorgio Chiellini and Gigi Buffon are all expected to shine in this season’s title defense, all eyes will be on Sebastian Giovinco as he returns back to his roots. First on loan during the 2010-11 season, and then on a co-ownership deal, the Atomic Ant really found his feet with Parma in Serie A after years of misery at Juventus prior to that. Leading the Gialloblu, both in terms of goals and assists, it was because of this man that Parma finished as high as 8th in the league last season, just 8 points from a Champions League spot.
Quite expectedly Antonio Conte, unlike his predecessors, was quick to excise the other half of his rights, as Juventus signed him permanently for €11m and the Italian international will be more than motivated to prove his detractors wrong as he starts his journey to carve a name for himself in the rich history of the most successful club in Italy.
The true heir to Del Piero’s throne, expect the 25-year old to explode this season as everything from dribbling and playmaking to back heels and free kicks will be on show at the Juventus stadium when they take on his former club Parma to start their title defense. What’s even better is that he scores, that too a lot!
"Juventus enter the new season with a very tight unit from last season. Although we have faced a strong blow due to Conte's ban from taking charge during matchdays, the fact that he's still training the team and his assistant from last season has taken over as the Mister will reflect Conte's influence largely on the team. Even though the team switched over 4-3-3 and 3-5-2 last season, it is expected that 3-5-2 will be used as the primary formation this time around. The team's Marchisio-Pirlo-Vidal midfield engine will still be its greatest strength and the acquisition of Kwadwo Asamoah, Paul Pogba confirm that the MPV midfield has an appropriate backup especially as they are returning to the Champions League. Mauricio Isla is the signing to watch out and he'll be storming the right wing in his favourite wing back role. The quality of the attack is still questionable even after Sebastian Giovinco's return and Juventus need to acquire a good finisher in this ending stage of the mercato. Juve had the best defense in Italy last season and the same trio of Chiellini, Bonucci and Barzagli will be in charge this time. I expect them to be favourites in Serie A and a dark horse capable of pulling some surprises in the Champions League."
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