This post was guest-blogged by Vittorio Pazzini. Follow him on Twitter (@vittoriopazzini)
Welcome to Thursday’s STTBS!!!
Why the exclamation points?! Because it’s an exciting time to be a Juventino!!!
An incredibly successful year ends tomorrow at Cagliari (and according to the Mayans, the world; see below), while the preparations for a potentially bigger new year are continuing apace.
We escaped a murderous Champions League draw relatively unscathed (on paper at least). We have Milan up next in the Coppa Italia, and of course a full second leg of what we hope will be another triumphant Serie A campaign.
Let’s jump right in.
Juve draw Celtic in Champions League
No more speculating, no more hoping for/dreading Real Madrid. Juventus have drawn Celtic in the first knockout round of the Champions League. The first leg is in Glasgow, the second at Juventus Stadium.
Elsewhere, the pairing of several big teams will see some shocking early-round exits, as you can see here:
Poor Milan! And to think that one of Man U. or Real Madrid is going home early!
Upon hearing the news, Pavel Nedved was cautiously optimistic:
It could have gone a lot worse, but we still need to face Celtic with great respect. They were the only team to beat Barcelona and have qualified for the next round with great credit. We’re on a path of development, but many of our players are playing Champions League football for the first time in their careers and will need to be up to the challenge.
Pavel went on to basically give a pre-match press conference. You think he’s excited for this one?
We’ll be stepping into a red-hot atmosphere and will encounter difficulties if we’re not fully up to speed. We need to match their intensity, hoping that our players have something extra on a technical level. Playing the return leg at home, in front of our public, certainly gives us a slight advantage. If we put in a Juventus style performance then we’ll have a good chance of getting through to the next round.
After training at Vinovo, Conte weighed in on the drawing in much the same manner:
We need to consider our Champions League experience as a path of development, regardless of the opposition we face. Celtic are a good team, they beat Barcelona and qualified from a group containing strong sides such as Benfica and Spartak Moscow. They can count on excellent players like Georgios Samaras and Kris Commons.
We’ll go into the encounter with great enthusiasm, maximum respect for the Scots and the desire to do our best in our Champions League adventure.
Don’t you wish you could just fast-forward to this fixture? Why isn’t it tomorrow?
Chiellini: Out for Months?
Bad news from Vinovo: Giorgio Chiellini is out for Friday, and possibly for much longer.
According to Juventus.com, Giorgio left practice yesterday with “muscular discomfort in his right calf.” However, several sources indicate that the injury is more serious, possibly involving a torn muscle. The “several months” mantra is becoming a motif, with Football Italia even jumping immediately to transfer market conclusions.
Fox Sports is even setting a recovery date (they’re mistaking the location of the injury to be his thigh, so make of this what you will):
Italian media reports Chiellini has likely torn a muscle in his thigh (sic), which could put the Italy defender out of action for three months.
I repeat: Fox Sports mislabeled the area of Giorgio’s injury, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the “Italian media” are actually, say, Bolivian.
What we do know is that the injury ranges from a calf strain to (gulp) a potential tear, in which case his layoff may be substantial.
If the worst is true, we will certainly miss his warrior mentality, uncanny positioning and physical prowess, but as opposed to recent years, I believe we are fortunate to have Caceres and Marrone around, as opposed to a Grygera or Mellberg, or dare I say it… a Zebina.
Don’t worry, guys, Zebina won’t appear unless I say his name three times. One left.
For the short term, it may be a particularly great chance for Marrone to learn alongside Bonucci and Barzagli, all the while benefitting from Conte’s obviously strong belief in his future. Caceres’ tactical flexibility and greater experience may give him an advantage over the Turin youngster, but if Chiellini is out for months, he will certainly get some playing time over three competitions.
So for Luca Marrone of Boscanero, Torino — opportunity knocks!
Conte on Cagliari
Antonio Conte is looking forward to ending the year on a high note, despite the loss of Chiellini.
But first thing’s first: Conte began his press conference by wishing Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova a successful surgery, as he fights cancer:
I would like to wish Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova all the very best. He has been forced to face a much more challenging battle than the one on the football pitch. I hope to see him back on Barca’s bench as soon as possible.
Conte then addressed Keyser Giorgio’s absence:
It’s a shame Chiellini’s injured, he’s a player everyone would like to have, for what he offers both on and off the field of play. He’s one of our leaders. But I’m convinced he’ll come back stronger than before, looking to recover as soon as possible with the help of the club’s medical staff.
And it turns out that Chiellini is not the only one on the training table:
Vucinic is another player with a slight ailment. We’ll have a look at him today in training and make the necessary evaluations. We’ll look to manage the current situation in the best possible way, perhaps it’s the first game we’ll face with a series of injury problems. Having said that, I’m convinced the team will respond in the correct manner.
Aside from some standard remarks on the Champions League draw (see above), the press conference ended, as most do, with a reference to the end of the world. Conte was asked who, in the event of the apocalypse predicted by the Mayans on Cagliari matchday, he would “pay tribute to”:
I’d give my Oscar to my players and club for the work done over the past year and a half. I’m aware that I’m at a special club with special players. They’ve achieved something incredible and it’s a great honour for me to be their manager.
Didn’t the Mayans know we’d be in the Champions League knockout round? They could’ve pushed the date back a bit, no?
See You in… Parma, Cagliari!
In a strange bureaucratic turn of events similar to last year’s triumph in Trieste, the Juve-Cagliari match will be played in Parma. The official explanation hints at the typical town council red tape which is frustrating every Serie A team, except of course for Juve:
The local Cagliari council have refused to grant permission for the use of ‘Is Arenas’ as a venue, prompting Lega Serie A president Maurizio Beretta to confirm that Parma’s Stadio Tardini will host Friday night’s meeting between Cagliari and Juventus.
If you’re an intermediate Cagliari tifoso (is that even possible?), do you travel to this match? It’s not as far away as it could be, but you still have to cross a body of water. This seems like a hardcore-fans-only match for them, so hopefully we can expect a decibel advantage for the Bianconeri.
You may remember the last Serie A meeting between Juve and Cagliari. Indeed, your lasting image of the match may have featured a field full of joyous Bianconeri embraces.
You know—the typical celebrations you get when you win a 30th Scudetto.
As with that unforgettable match, which was played in Trieste, Friday’s match will not take place in Cagliari, but in Parma.
But technically, it is a home match for Cagliari. And away to Cagliari, the Bianconeri are prone to struggle for every result.
Out of 32 matches, Juve have won 11, drawn 12 and lost nine. And of those 11 wins, seven have been 1-0 victories, dating all the way back to Pietro Anastasi’s solitary strike in 1969. There have been seven 1-1 draws, and from the mid-60s to 1980, when Cagliari were actually winning games, they have come out on top four times by a score of 2-1.
The good news for Juve is that Gigi Riva retired in 1976, so here’s hoping that thunderclaps are not in the forecast for the Isolani.
Buffon Wins Viola Award (What?!)
Gigi Buffon has always transcended his role as Juve’s goalkeeper and captain, serving as an ambassador for calcio throughout the world. In addition to his miracle reflexes, uncanny sense of position and rock-solid leadership, he has an international reputation for elegance, honesty and class on and off the pitch.
No matter which Italian team you support, Buffon is your goalkeeper. If you don’t support Juve, you still wish he was your No. 1, just like you wish Pirlo was roaming your midfield, looking for an incisive pass to make.
Want further proof? Yesterday, Buffon received a sportsmanship award… from FIORENTINA!
Gigi won this month’s Cartellino Viola award, given out by Fiorentina for a superlative instance of good sportsmanship. Gigi shared the honors with Massimiliano Allegri for their graceful handling of the controversial penalty decision made during November’s defeat to Milan. Here’s the official explanation:
His post-match comments in the wake of the Bianconeri’s narrow November defeat to Milan, during which the hosts were wrongly awarded a decisive penalty for an alleged Mauricio Isla handball, enabled the goalkeeper’s magnanimous approach to shine through. Instead of dwelling on the decision, Gigi sought to praise the opposition and acknowledge their strengths over the course of the 90 minutes.
Returning the favor was Milan boss Massimiliano Allegri, who had no qualms in admitting that his team were fortunate to be awarded a penalty for a handball that never was. The sporting attitudes of both player and coach prompted Fiorentina to name the pair joint winners of this month’s ‘Cartellino Viola’ award.
Of course, we shouldn’t kid ourselves: This award is more a testament to Buffon’s untouchable, Scirea- or Del Piero-like status in world football than it is an augury of thawing relations between Fiorentina and Juventus.
Still, such virtuous actions and their subsequent recognition are always welcome, especially in calcio’s caustic, suspicion-riddled media landscape.
Bianconeri Christmas Video
We end with what is hopefully becoming an Internet-era holiday tradition.
Juve have put out their annual video wishing their fans a happy holiday and New Year. You may remember last year’s animated Santa pitch invasion. This year, the official site has edited together the highlights from the recent Christmas party. There are warm wishes, some gentle teammate teasing and even the golden singing voice of Kwadwo Asamoah.
My favorite line is from Lichtsteiner: “We don’t sing where I’m from. We make people sing!”
And with that, I wish all of you out there the happiest of holidays.
And for those who celebrate on Dec. 25th, to paraphrase the song, may all your Christmases be black-and-white.
Stay tuned for a match report after Friday’s Cagliari match plus some happy holiday hijinks!
Tanti auguri a tutti! Ci vediamo presto!
[STTBS]: Juventus News is a daily feature where the JuventiKnows editorial team discusses the JuveNews stories you need to read, without the “Messi signs for Juve on loan thanks to Nike” kind of nonsense. What does [STTBS] mean? You’ll have to guess that for yourself. We wouldn’t tell you even under pain of torture… (though we do take bribes)