Regular readers will undoubtedly be aware of Aaron’s long-held ‘curse of the mezzogiorno’ theory that states all southern teams redouble their efforts when faced with the black and white stripes of Turin’s Old Lady. However, this game had much more in common with Juve’s recent visits to Chievo with the Renzo Barbera looking more and more like the potato field that is the Stadio Bentegodi in Verona as the match wore on. Here’s John and Adam with the review
MATCH ANALYSIS (by Adam Digby)
As suggested in our preview of this encounter, the past few weeks have seen Juventus take on important opponent after important opponent and perhaps the danger here, after games against Lazio, Chelsea, Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk – with the small matter of the Turin derby sandwiched between them – was that the players might relax when faced with relatively weaker – or at least less significant – opponents.
There were however, two factors to consider when looking to this encounter with the Rosanero. Firstly is the poor record of Juventus when facing the Sicilian outfit in recent seasons. Before this weekend, the Old Lady had won just two of the six previous meetings between the pair, losing four consecutive matches prior to last season and being outscored nine goals to two during that period.
The second, and easily most pertinent, was the fact the match signalled the return to active duty for Antonio Conte, his ban for failing to stab Filippo Carobbio to death during their time together in Siena expiring in time for the Coach to be permitted to take full control of the team here. It was a significant day for both Conte and the club who, despite topping the Serie A table and progressing in the Champions League, have clearly missed their leader at times.
Yet as much as this was billed as his return to the bench, for large portions of this game he did nothing of the kind. Described by Gigi Buffon as ‘a caged lion’ during his suspension, Conte seemed to spend the entire 90 minutes prowling the technical area and bellowing at his players. If they – or anyone watching on television – were in any doubt as to the difference he would make, an hour and a half long verbal assault should clarify it for them.
To the surprise of many – particularly those who took advantage of Sky Italia’s ‘Conte-Cam’ (and maybe the Palermo ground staff) – there was also an actual football match taking place and there too the returning hero would make clear both the impact he makes and the power he exerts over this group of players. As the first half petered out in a hail of Mirko Vucinic induced frustration and other equally annoying Juventus bingo clichés (powerful Kwadwo Asamoah runs ending in crosses to strikers poor in the air? Check. Giorgio Chiellini injury he shakes off? Check. Shot of Buffon wandering aimlessly around his area before bellowing for no reason? Check) it was time for ‘The Boss’ to earn his proverbial corn.
We should have put the game to bed earlier, but sometimes it’s not that straightforward against certain teams. It was important to win, also for Conte, in order to welcome him back with a success.
- Stephan Lichtsteiner
With Angelo Alessio criticised for basically being too nice, it was deemed that the fire Conte is able to light under his players at half-time was the single biggest difference in the team over the past four months. It worked. Vucinic began passing to men in the same outfit as him rather than his usual preferred option of playing through balls for the side netting and came up with an absolute gem of an assist to Stephan Lichtsteiner for what would prove to be the only goal of the game.
“I’ll have to buy him two dinners for that!” proclaimed the Swiss full back in a post-match interview and he should ensure he does, perhaps a full stomach might convince the hot-and-cold Montenegrin to play as he did in the second forty-five minutes rather than the first. More fitting however was the name on the score sheet with Lichtsteiner perhaps the one player who, above all others, most embodies the spirit of both Conte as a player and the identity he has instilled in this team.
LE PAGELLE (by John Cascarano)
Buffon 6.0 – Default score for once again having nothing to do.
Barzagli 8.0 – Was the single biggest reason for the score/summary above.
Bonucci 7.0 – Solid performance for Boner, becoming the norm. I’d normally be pissed about his yellow card at the end, but that seemed pretty harsh for me.
Chiellini 6.5 – Giorgio, like Buffon, gets a lower score for having less to do. Held his own.
Lichtsteiner 8.5 – MOTM. Complete train out there. Took a face to the head, bombed up and down the right side and, completely owned it. And scored. Game, set, match.
64′ Padoin 5.0 – Nothing bad, nothing good. I still can’t figure out why he’s on this team.
Marchisio 6.5 – Filled the midfield where Vidal wasn’t in the second half. Covered well, but would’ve liked to see some more forward runs (cue Lichtsteiner).
Pirlo 6.5 – Did not change the game, but did his job in the midfield. + 0.5 for his new-found aggressiveness under Conte, and willingness to get dirty.
Vidal 7.5 – Absolutely a beast, his tackling was once again impeccable. I don’t yet know what his injury status is, but am currently terrified.
54′ Pogba – 6.5 – Did the job in the (unfortunate) absence of Vidal.
Asamoah 5.5 – A relatively quiet day for birthday boy Asabobo.
Vucinic 6.0 – Dammit, Mirko. You’re up to your old tricks again. – 0.5 for missing that sitter.
Matri 5.0 – Got into good positions, and chested down the ball on a near Marchisio/shoulda-been-a-Vucinic goal. Should have done better, but didn’t play horribly.
73′ Bendtner – s.v. – Should’ve scored. Did virtually nothing beyond that. Sweet gloves though, Nicky.
Antonio Conte – 10.0 – Gets a perfect 10 for a triumphant return. And since now he’s not caged up in his little booth anymore, I’m terrified that he’ll fly his scary ass over here and physically harm me if I rate him otherwise.
ANALYSIS WRAP-UP (by Adam Digby)
A very non-descript match but one which will undoubtedly be remembered for Conte’s return, even a look at the stats fails to provide any redeeming features. Juve edged possession but had just 53% themselves, the passed the ball marginally better – an 80% completion rate compared to 75% for Palermo – and was reflected in a game which felt remarkably even the whole way through.
The Rosanero did well to shackle Claudio Marchisio following some superb recent displays and on the whole their own 3-5-1-1 formation both mirrored Juve’s own set up and stifled the attacking intent of players like him, Asamoah and Lichtsteiner. It is perhaps the subdued performances of that aforementioned trio which most contributed to the increased feeling of parity as this game wore on. Normally so dynamic, they were nullified well by Gian Piero Gasperini’s usual approach.
Of course the other take away point from the game will be the dive from Leo Bonucci. Yes he received a yellow card and apologised but the incident will undoubtedly be replayed time and again over the coming days. Luckily for him – and everyone else of a Bianconeri persuasion – the referee spotted it on the field and punished him accordingly, thus preventing a repeat of the situation Milos Krasic found himself in two years ago.
The team reacted in an extraordinary manner and I thank the players, because they really are special. So is the club and perhaps so am I. I am fortunate enough to have a great staff, as Massimo Carrera and Angelo Alessio did brilliantly in replacing me and giving orders from the touchline.
– Antonio Conte
Hopefully it will be Conte’s return that is focused upon as seeing him come from behind the plexi-glass of a directors box and do his job was reason enough to cheer, even if the action unfolding in front of him left much to be desired. The Boss is indeed back! BENTORNATO MISTER!!
ANTONIO CONTE IL NOSTRO CAPITANO!
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