Despite not hitting the heights of last season, it has still been a good season thus far for the top age group of Juve’s Settore Giovanile. Sitting atop Group A some five points clear of closest rivals Fiorentina, the baby Bianconeri have won fourteen of their nineteen matches to date including a 1-0 derby win over neighbours Torino back in November and a two goal victory over the Viola just last month. With just five games remaining, Marco Baroni’s men look all but guaranteed a playoff place for the championship at the end of the season.
Having lost in the final of that competition last season, Juventus have now gone seven years since their last win, a record the club will be striving to correct later this season. They have enjoyed much more success in the Viareggio Cup, winning the invitational tournament in three of the last four seasons including the 2012 edition as we told you in an extensive report here.
It looked like that great run would continue as they topped Group One thanks to wins over Maribor (4-2), Avellino (2-1) and a 0-0 draw with Australian side APIA Leichhardt. From there however they ran into a red hot Juve Stabia side and were eliminated by a single goal. That loss allowed some lesser lights to shine with Anderlecht eventually winning the prestigious trophy, making them the first foreign side to see their name etched on the cup since the dominant Dukla Prague teams of the late 1970’s.
Much like the 2011-12 campaign they have been led from the front by strikers Stefano Padovan and Stefano Beltrame. The former in particular has been in superb form, netting nine goals in just twelve appearances after spending a number of weekends on the first team bench during the injury hit period over the winter. A number of major differences have been seen however, with much less rotation between matches being perhaps the foremost of them.
That has led to the regular selection of Hördur Magnússon in central defence and, despite a few games where he has been deployed at full back or indeed midfield, the Icelandic youngster has been a major factor in an improved team defence this term. First choice goalkeeper Laurenţiu Brănescu – who has also missed a number of games following call ups to Antonio Conte’s squad and also his international commitments with Romania – benefited greatly from this, keeping an incredible eight clean sheets in his twelve appearances between the posts. His lowest moment came with a red card after just fifteen minutes into a game against Cagliari in September, a game the team would lose 5-0 which is comfortably their biggest defeat in some time.
Even with that superb improvement at the back, the one stand out difference from last season would be the shift in formation from 4-3-3 to 3-5-2, mirroring the formation utilised by the first team. Not only does that give players at this level a much easier transition should they make the leap to Serie A football, but it has also given some different positions to players. Shifted from his natural position behind the strikers, seventeen year old Federico Mattiello is perhaps the most prominent of those despite this being his first season as a member of the Primavera. The star of last term’s Allievi Nazionale (Under-17’s) side and a key figure in their march to the Al Kass International Cup Final, he has made the move up smoothly. Playing sixteen games to date, he has netted one goal and eight assists in a right wingback role that was previously completely alien to him.
He has also been an essential part of the side which has reached the Quarter Finals of the NextGen Series after qualifying from a tough group containing Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Fenerbache. Last week they recorded a 1-0 knockout round win over Rosenburg thanks to Beltrame’s first half goal, fielding a very strong line-up against the Norwegian club and can now look forward to a tough meeting with Chelsea in the next round. Should they emulate the senior side and beat the boys from the bridge, the Primavera will earn a place in the Semi Finals which will be held in Lake Como between March 29 and April 1.
The Primavera Coppa Italia has also seen Baroni’s men enjoy much success as they put on three dominating displays to defeat Siena (5-1), Sampdoria (6-3) and Torino (4-1) to seal their place in the Final against Napoli. A two-legged affair, the games will be played on March 13 and 22 with the club taking the unprecedented step of announcing that they would not charge admission to Juventus Stadium for the game. Having lost to Roma at the same stage last season, the Bianconeri will not only hope to go one better and lift the trophy, they will strive to top the 13,000 paying customers who saw them take on the Giallorossi in the showpiece event.
Baroni selected a heavily changed line up for the Turin derby this past weekend ahead of the Final, only selecting regulars Joel Untersee, Giuseppe Ruggiero, Beltrame and Padovan as substitutes. With one eye clearly on Wednesday’s huge game – which will be reviewed here on the site – the coach’s gamble failed to pay off as Juve were forced to come from behind, equalising through a Padovan penalty in the second half.
Best of the rest
Another team enjoying a strong campaign is Claudio Gabetta’s Giovanissimi Nazionali side. Currently second in their Group to Torino, the Bianconeri Under-15’s have lost just once all season, recording sixteen wins and three draws in the first twenty games and displaying much promise for the future. They have recorded some remarkable results including a 7-0 win away to Virtus Entella, scoring six goals against both Alessandria and Genoa while destroying local rivals Casale by an astonishing ten unanswered goals late last year.
They were unable to repeat that success at the Manchester United Premier Cup however, eliminated from the group stages following some uncharacteristically poor results. The competition took place in late February and, having not lost since September they could have expected more than losses to both Brescia (1-0) and Napoli (2-1). They will hope to recover their form and confidence when they return to domestic action at home to whipping boys Casale on 17 March.
Elsewhere, Ivano Della Morte’s Allievi Nazionale side are currently fifth in Group A with ten wins in their opening twenty games of the season. The U-17’s side have suffered a number of postponed fixtures but seem set to miss out on a place in the end of season playoffs in what has been a tough season for a team robbed of its best players. As they search for an identity following the promotion of key figures from last year such as Mattiello and Pol Garcia, it has certainly been a difficult baptism for the new class.
A struggling campaign for many but one which seems to show the strength and quality is slowly returning to the Youth Sector at all levels thanks to the work of a management team dedicated to the development of players of all ages. With an exciting conclusion to the season in store at many levels, this Youth update will once again become a regular feature here at JuventiKnows so be sure to look out for many more editions over the coming weeks.
In bocca al lupo ragazzi!