This post was guest-blogged by Vittorio Pazzini. Follow him on Twitter (@vittoriopazzini)
Hello, Juventini, and welcome to Wednesday’s late-edition, post-Coppa Italia STTBS.
Amidst Juventus’ total domination of Serie A last season, culminating in a celebrated (controversial to everyone else) 49-match unbeaten streak, you may forget (or choose to forget) the Bianconeri’s lone loss from last season at the hands of Napoli—in this very competition.
Of course, Juve suffered the loss after a week of raging Scudetto celebrations, but a loss is still a loss. And if you think Conte isn’t using it as motivation for this year’s competition, you are gravely mistaken.
Tonight’s match against Cagliari (review to follow) was a relatively convincing win, despite what played predominantly as a moderately pleasant game of table tennis, and despite what you will inevitably hear in the press tomorrow about Juve’s lack of abundance in the goalscoring department.
But this evening, a Bianconeri composed of mostly second-stringers dominated possession, flowed very well on offense, thoroughly locked up the Isoli’s attack, and despite injuries to Arturo Vidal (more on that as it develops) and Nicklas Bendtner, eventually disposed of Cagliari to book a place in the quarterfinals.
And, as you will most likely hear several times this week, our No. 12, Sebastian Giovinco, scored the only goal needed to seal our 12/12/12 victory. One wonders if the ancient Mayans had their money on that happening.
Here’s the post-Cagliari news from Vinovo.
Conte’s (Officially) Back (Again)!
You may remember last week’s episode, wherein we trumpeted ad nauseam Antonio Conte’s triumphant return to the bench at Palermo. Well, it was technically a triumph, but between the hailstones and mud pools on the pitch and the resultant rough-and-tumble, slip-and-slide quality of play, it was not a return befitting a king.
Tonight saw take two, and while the choreography in the curva was beautiful, it was hardly one for the overpriced DVD set.
Still, Conte certainly moved by the fans’ emotional “welcome back” gesture:
It was really touching, it’s always nice to know you’re appreciated.
As for the match, Juve mostly dominated, albeit more in possession and defensive prowess than actual goals. Still, Conte’s probably saving any negatives for tomorrow’s training session. As far as the press is concerned, Antonio’s staying on the sunny side of the strada:
I’m pleased we went through tonight because we want to be challenging on all fronts. We were up against a decent Cagliari side and they were well set out on the pitch. Now we’ll wait to see whether we’ll face AC Milan or Reggina in the next round. Today the lads who have been playing less gave me the response I was after.
Finally, Conte spared a thought for three unfortunate players who either missed the game outright, or went down in the first half:
I’m sorry for Giaccherini, he was forced to withdraw because of some sort of flu bug, so I had to field Arturo, who had a knee problem. And I was especially sorry for Bendtner, I would have liked to see him have a longer run-out.
Welcome back, Mister! I swear that we ordered you a really nice 5-0 blowout victory—it just hasn’t come in yet. You know holiday shipping…
Luca Marrone, he of the recent loan rumors, certainly handled himself well tonight in the center of defense, looking calm and self-possessed, and taking all the right liberties when bringing the ball out of Juve’s third and making some intelligent passes (as you’d expect, Luca being a converted midfielder).
Afterwards, Luca was grateful for the minutes, and satisfied with Juve’s performance:
We put in a good performance and we’re glad to have made it through to the next round because we want to go all the way. It’s important for us to stay in all the competitions so that those who are featuring less get more opportunities to play.
In fact, it seems far more enjoyable for Luca to lock up opposing strikers than to have to answer that old midfielder-defender question. Here we go again:
It’s up to the boss where he wants to play me. All I have to do is make sure I’m ready when called upon. It’s not as if I’ve forgotten how to play in midfield though, because I play there in training and for Italy U21s.
Make sure you got that down, giornalisti.
Finally, Luca weighed in on the emotional homecoming of Antonio Conte, and its galvanizing effect of the squad:
You could sense the crowd’s affection for him from out there on the pitch. We’re delighted to have him back with us because he’s such an important presence. He made his presence felt during the break today too!
I can see Luca on loan somewhere, but I would personally rather have him playing more at Juve than to see Marotta spend money on someone else (see below).
Resta con noi, Luca!
Bonucci Banned for Dive
On the whole, Leo Bonucci has been a solid, often inspirational player on the back line this season, which is why it was perhaps more than a little disappointing to watch his blatant dive at Palermo on Sunday.
It was a bit strange to even see Leo up with the strikers on that goalscoring opportunity, and impressive/scary when he attempted to round the keeper. I think most of us expected, if not a clinical finish, that at least a ricochet for another Juve player to knock in.
Instead, Leo threw up his hands like a cross between the melting Wicked Witch of the West and an old dowager in a Marx Brothers film, collapsed on the goalkeeper and received a yellow card for simulation—although I think we can all agree that “simulation” is not an accurate word for Leo’s pantomime performance.
Bonucci later apologized via Twitter, but was still slapped with a €2,000 fine and a one-game suspension by our dear, dear friends at the FIGC.
However, as an object lesson in good (re: manipulative PR), Juventus.com chose to focus on the fact that with this yellow card, Leo had actually reached his limit, and thus would have been suspended for Atalanta anyway. Thus, the “official” version:
The defender has been handed a one-match ban after receiving his eighth yellow card of the season in Juve’s 1-0 success over Palermo.
All in the line of duty, or so Juve would have you believe.
In any event, you know you’re better than that, Leo—just shoot next time. With the Italian press the way it is, anything other than a blatant, clear-cut penalty for Juve is not even worth calling anyway.
Winter Mercato: Eyes on Defense
Last week on STTBS, we tried to make heads or tails of the various Juve transfer market rumors regarding that elusive “Top Player,” re: a consistent striker. This week, the ever-restless press seems to be focusing on prospective reinforcements for Juve’s defense.
As mentioned previously in this space, barring some Juventus legal trickery (not advised), Kwadwo Asamoah will be leaving for the African Cup of Nations in January, and it is also very likely that Lucio will leave permanently. Meanwhile, Luca Marrone may be loaned out for more playing time, despite Conte’s obvious belief in him and tonight’s solid performance.
According to the Gazzetta dello Sport, Giuseppe Marotta has his eye on one of either Salvatore Bocchetti or Federico Peluso. Bocchetti currently plays in Russia for Rubin Kazan, but has repeatedly and publicly wished for a return to Italy. Meanwhile, Juve have previously tried making a play for Atalanta’s Peluso, an overture which was rejected at the last deadline.
Here’s an unauthorized, Gazzetta-approved look into the mind of Marotta:
Peluso has caught the eye of the Scudetto champions because he is both cheap and versatile although if given the choice, it is understood that Beppe Marotta would prefer to sign Bocchetti.
Make of that what you will, amici.
Del Piero Disastro Down Under?
After much initial hullabaloo, Alex Del Piero’s adventure Down Under might already be over, as talks for a contract extension have reached an impasse.
You may have read that Sydney FC is at the bottom of the A-league table with a paltry three wins in 10 games and have already sacked their coach. Moreover, Alex is currently out with an injury.
ADP’s contract, reportedly worth €1.6m per season, is for one year and an option for another, but talks are at a stalemate. From our Capitano himself, speaking to The Australian:
We have been talking. We are waiting for what the club decide… they wait for me. Everybody is waiting. We have discussed things. We have a good relationship, but at the moment we have to think day by day.
We know from experience that our Alex is certainly not one to give up, even in the worst of circumstances. Still, the MLS (particularly the Beckham-less Galaxy) must be looking good from Sydney these days.
And selfishly speaking, it would be nice to see him more.
Leali Wants No. 1 Spot
You may have heard Gigi Buffon’s recent comment that he wants only a short-term contract extension, as he reasonably sees himself playing for Juve (and by implication at world-class level) for another three years.
Nicola Leali, Juve’s 19-year-old goalkeeping understudy (currently on loan at Lanciano) can definitely see himself taking over for his idol at the end of those three years:
I would happily sign for it now to become Buffon’s heir in three years’ time. He is an idol for me. I still look back at my time with him and Storari in the dressing room at the start of the season with pride. I was impressed by everything he did.
And in the meantime, he would be happily settling for No. 2 if it meant learning under his mentor:
It would already be a dream for me to return to Juventus to be Buffon’s backup.
You have three years to show signs of future sainthood, Nicola!
While he didn’t feature in tonight’s victory, Claudio Marchisio will make an appearance this Friday on behalf of Turin’s Sant’Anna Hospital. Here’s the official word from Juventus.com:
Claudio Marchisio and his wife Roberta will continue to make their invaluable contribution to the ‘Fondazione Crescere Insieme al Sant’Anna’ project by attending the opening of a charity shop established to raise money for the Turin-based hospital.
On Friday 14 December, the Bianconeri midfielder will meet fans at the store, located in Turin’s Via Gramsci 7/A, to sign copies of his recent autobiography ‘Claudio Marchisio’, published by ‘Priuli & Verlucca’. All proceeds from the shop, which will remain open until Sunday 16 December, are to be donated to the hospital’s neo natal ward.
It’s always wonderful to give to a great cause, but to meet Il Principino as well? Get on it, Juventini Torinesi!
Grazie mille, Famiglia Marchisio!
It’s a Swingin’ Bianconeri Christmas!
Get ready to wrap your minds around a true Christmas miracle, friends.
Today, Juventus join such esteemed and esoteric company as Johnny Mathis, Nat King Cole, Mariah Carey, Rod Stewart, John Denver and the Muppets, umm, the Chipmunks and… basically everyone else.
That’s right: Juve made a Christmas record! And get this: it’s an old-school double album! And technically, it’s a concept album, which puts them in the rarified realms of Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, King Crimson and Peter Gabriel-era Genesis! (Okay, that’s a huge stretch).
Here’s the official scoop from Juve’s website, and as per usual, it’s worded with the same seriousness of purpose and steely determination used for important upcoming matches:
The Bianconeri have signaled their intent to spread plenty of Christmas cheer both on and off the field by releasing the “Juventus Christmas Soundtrack 2012”, a double CD compilation featuring festive choices from the team and backroom staff. Ideal for parties or as a stocking filler for loved ones…
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve “signaled my intent” to spread holiday cheer to everyone. Look out, Milan and They Who Have No Christmas Spirit! We won’t stop until we’re Santa’s holliest, jolliest Helpers!
So, can we learn anything new about our heroes from their selections?
Not really. Conte still knows best (Sinatra), and Alessio generally follows his plan—with slight variation, of course. Pogba is a straight-up young person, while Storari has an old man’s dubious, Office Space-esque taste. Giovinco fancies himself a classic (little) badass, but Quagliarella’s a real rock n’ roller. Meanwhile, Marchisio tries to get in good with Justin Timberlake, and Pirlo—as always—keeps it classy.
The shocker? Guess who hit the Xmas song target with deadly accuracy? Bendtner! (In all seriousness, I was hoping this light-hearted joke was rendered obsolete by his scoring a goal tonight.)
Bravo, Nicklas—nobody beats that Wham! song. Not even Bonucci, who comes close with his Hall & Oates track, or Isla, who wisely chose Run-DMC.
Nope—Wham! rules over them all.
Here’s the track list, including who selected each song:
1. Last Christmas (Single Version)—Wham! (Bendtner)
2. My Only Wish (This Year)—Britney Spears (Pogba)
3. Love on Layaway – Gloria Estefan (Vidal)
4. This Christmas—Christina Aguilera (Caceres)
5. Christmas In Hollis—Run-DMC (Isla)
6. It’s Christmas—Modern Talking (Rubinho)
7. Shake Up Christmas—Train (Chiellini)
8. World Christmas—R. Kelly (Lucio)
9. Silent Night—Michael Bolton (Storari)
10. I Don’t Wanna Spend One More Christmas Without You—N’Sync (Marchisio)
11. Christmas Conga—Cyndi Lauper (Giaccherini)
12. It’s Christmas Time Again—Jessica Simpson (De Ceglie)
13. Christmas Time—Backstreet Boys (Marrone)
14. Merry, Merry Christmas—New Kids On The Block (Branescu)
15. The First Nöel—Whitney Houston (Vucinic)
1. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! (78rpm Version)—Frank Sinatra (Conte)
2. If Every Day Was Like Christmas—Elvis Presley w/the Jordanaires and the Imperials Quartet (Quagliarella)
3. Jingle Bells—Boney M. (Pepe)
4. O Holy Night—Paul Potts (Lichtsteiner)
5. It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas– Perry Como w/Mitchell Ayres & His Orchestra and the Fontane Sisters (Carrera)
6. I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day—Harry Belafonte (Buffon)
7. Little Drummer Boy—Johnny Cash (Giovinco)
8. White Christmas (1987 Version)—Tony Bennett w/Dexter Gordon (Pirlo)
9. Joy to the World—Aretha Franklin (Matri)
10. O Come All Ye Faithful—Art Garfunkel (Barzagli)
11. Jingle Bell Rock—Daryl Hall & John Oates (Bonucci)
12. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas—Luther Vandross (Padoin)
13. Oh Happy Day—Edwin Hawkins Singers (Asamoah)
14. Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town—Frank Sinatra (Alessio)
15. Buon Natale A Tutto Il Mondo—Domenic Modugno (Juventus FC)
Ravanelli is 44
We’d like to wish a very happy birthday to Fabrizio Ravanelli, who turned 44 yesterday but looks pretty much like he did while playing for the Old Lady.
He may have spent only four years wearing bianconero (1992-96), but the White Feather certainly managed to leave his mark in the annals of Juve history; perhaps most importantly, he scored in the Old Lady’s Champions League Final victory over Ajax. These days, he coaches Juve’s Giovanissimi Regionali.
Here’s a career-spanning video tribute to our dear Penna Bianca. I apologize in advance for the music: much like our hero’s career, it’s decidedly ‘90s.
And a belated tanti auguri to Kwadwo Asamoah, who turned 24 on December 9.
Buon Compleanno, ragazzi!!!
Juve and Jeep at J Set
Sure this might just be a glorified car commercial, but it has Antonio Conte and Pavel Nedved. Enjoy.
Ciao for now. Look forward to a full Coppa Italia match and Atalanta TeamEATS coming soon, and see you later this week for more STTBS. A presto, amici!
[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)