This post was guest-blogged by Vittorio Pazzini. Follow him on Twitter (@vittoriopazzini)
Welcome back to STTBS.
From here until Christmas, it’s all Serie A, all the time.
Juventus are two matches from the break, three from the official halfway point of the season. And while we may not be sitting pretty, we’re still perched at the very top of the table. The next two weeks are all about consolidation.
The last two fixtures of 2012—Sunday against Atalanta and a rematch with Cagliari next week—are crucial for the Bianconeri. Not only for maintaining momentum, but also for taking every opportunity to extend our lead at the top—while hoping our rivals falter. And usually, one of them does each week.
So with that in mind, on to the news.
It’s back to Serie A business for the rest of the year, as Conte’s side prepares for Atalanta on Sunday.
Yesterday, those who featured in Wednesday’s Coppa Italia received the warm-down, while the rest of the group trained as per usual. This morning saw another workout, and we can expect at least one other session before Conte’s press conference on Saturday.
Atalanta have a road record of two wins, two draws and four defeats, scoring only seven goals and conceding one more than at home. Here’s a recap from Juventus.com of their last two matches:
The side from Bergamo have struggled somewhat on the road recently however. They lost 4-1 at Fiorentina, having gone in 2-1 down at the break. The scores were level until the game’s last quarter in Bologna meanwhile, until former Atalanta man Gabbiadini won it 2-1 for the hosts.
Atalanta come into this game off the back of a 2-1 home win over Parma. Denis scored a header and Peluso doubled their lead, tapping into an empty net, before Amauri managed a consolation goal for the Gialloblu. With 21 points, Colantuono’s men sit comfortably in mid-table in 10th, seven points clear of the relegation zone.
At this point, the starting 11 is starting to take shape. For the most part, it looks very familiar. The feeling is that Vucinic and Giovinco will start upfront, while Vidal is fit enough (see below) to be in the running with Pogba to start on the inside right of the midfield. Pirlo and Marchisio are expected to start, and since there is no word on the wings, we can assume Lichsteiner and Asamoah will be picked.
In defense, Bonucci is suspended, but the good news is that Luca Marrone is thought to be his replacement, working alongside the two rocks, Barzagli and Chiellini.
Meanwhile, there are three medical updates to be had, courtesy of the official website. Most importantly, Arturo Vidal should be okay. He sustained “bruising” on his right knee, but an MRI scan gave him the old breathe-easier nulla di grave.
Emanuele Giaccherini missed yesterday’s session with the same gastric flu which sidelined him for the Cagliari match.
Finally, Nicklas Bendtner’s bad luck continues, and this time, unfortunately, it’s struck him below the belt. From Juventus.com:
Nicklas Bendtner underwent X-rays and scans today after being forced to leave the pitch with an injury during last night’s game. The tests revealed a groin strain. The Danish striker will undergo further examinations over the coming days to assess the full extent of the injury.
ESPN reports that the injury could keep Nicklas out for up to three months, which would make his term with Juve officially “disastrous” where it not saddled with such modest, cut-price expectations in the first place.
Massa’s the Man
The man with the whistle for the Atalanta match will be Davide Massa, from Imperia, Liguria—which, if only in name, seems like the perfect hometown for a good referee. If his name sounds unfamiliar, that’s because you’ve never heard of him. Indeed, he has never overseen a Juventus match, at least in any official competition.
That’s right, folks: no history, no hang-ups—unless he got the wrong FIGC professor during training.
Nicola Andrea Nicoletti and Claudio La Rocca will be his assistants, with Andrea Padovan as fourth official/third accordion/man with bird.
Finally, Gianpaolo Calvarese and Leonardo Baracani will be staring at the goal-lines, while conspiracy theorists will likely be staring at them.
Previous Atalanta Encounters
As far as Serie A’s concerned, the Bianconeri have historically dominated Sunday’s opponent: In 50 matches, Juve are 32-14-4.
You may remember the last time these two sides played each other. Not the actual match, of course, but Alex Del Piero’s emotionally overwhelming lap of honor around the stadium while the match was going on. Playing in the immense shadow of the greatest Juventino’s last stand, the 3-1 result was profoundly perfunctory.
Here are some other bits of results trivia from the official site:
Last year’s result) 3-1 (with strikes from Marrone, Del Piero, a Lichtsteiner own goal and penalty from Barzagli) has occurred on two other occasions. In 1940/41 Gabetto struck a hat-trick as Juve came from behind following Pagliano’s opener. Meanwhile in 1997/98 Antonio Conte broke the deadlock before Caccia brought the sides level. Up stepped Zinedine Zidane however, the Frenchman scoring a brace to secure the points for the Bianconeri.
Intriguingly Juventus have won 1-0, 2-0 and 2-1 on six occasions each. The Bianconeri have also put their opponents to the sword a number of times, winning 5-0, 6-2 and 7-1.
Let’s hope for a blowout, if only because last time I promised Antonio an official homecoming rout, but I lost the tracking number and have no idea when it’s supposed to arrive…
Reports are multiplying (re: being recycled) all over the web that Juventus are close to signing Didier Drogba on loan. Drogba is currently training with vanquished Champions League foes Chelsea, while his main club, Shanghai Shenhua, are currently in their offseason.
Earlier in the week, ESPN jumped onto the bandwagon, giving a bit more credence to the rumors. Now the Gazzetta dello Sport is reporting that Juve are willing to pay him a salary of £3.2m a season.
There are two problems with this scenario, as far as Juve are concerned. The first is that Drogba is likely to leave almost immediately upon signing for the African Cup of Nations. Secondly, despite the Gazzetta’sreport, he is making the wage of a superstar taking the “global football ambassador” trip to a very grateful, soccer-inferior nation.
Are Marotta and the rest of the Bianconeri boys who cry poor (and actually are poor) willing to shell out this much money? And if it’s a serious consideration, is it a long-term one?
Although it makes more sense as a loan, does it really make sense? If the market’s this bad, how about giving Ciro Immobile a call?
Trap Sees Classic Juve
Congratulations to Giovanni Trapattoni! Our beloved former coach was inducted into the Italian Football Hall of Fame yesterday.
At the induction ceremony, he was quick to mention Antonio Conte as a possible heir to his particular style and success, and he recently spoke to the Gazzetta dello Sport on the similarities he sees between his Juve and the current squad:
You know what I like about this Juventus? I do not see selfishness. I remember when Bettega and Platini enjoyed helping a teammate to score a goal. In today’s Juve is the same spirit and this is worth a lot of points.
Trapattoni also commented a bit on outstanding Juve players, as well as possible reinforcements in January:
Pogba has adapted in record time and is capable of starting more games. (As for the transfer market) the right name is Drogba. He is perfect for the Champions League. He has class, experience and with Vucinic would create a good understanding. Of course, Giovinco should do more than just sit on the bench, but Juve will need everyone when it gets to spring and they are fighting for the Scudetto and Champions League. They can move forward on both fronts.
Unfortunately, as the Gazzetta is a Milan-based paper, the bulk of questions asked of Trap focus on the current hometown squads, including what I believe to be an unconscionable focus on They Who Cannot Be Named.
He may have been a success everywhere in Italy, but he was a legend at Juventus.
If the rich history, legacy of calcio supremacy and our current dominance don’t have you thanking the heavens you’re Juventino, then maybe a trip to the luxurious new stadium might seal the deal. In fact, it might be a miracle that it exists at all.
You will remember that Juventus are the only Italian club who own their own stadium. For the other 19 Serie A clubs, perpetual victims of red tape, Kafkaesque legal processes and general bureaucratic buffoonery, sporting independence may be years away.
A law (referred to as the Legge Stadi) was proposed in 2009 with the aim of helping clubs construct their own stadiums with support from their respective towns. However, according to Forza Italian Football, the prospective bill is “enveloped in an endless bureaucratic cycle and is yet to even be voted upon.”
Our favorite person in the world, the FIGC’s Giancarlo Abete, stated on Wednesday that save a “miracle,” the law will not be passed:
It is a typical Italian story. New structures are needed, but if the law doesn’t go through then we have to forget about it.
And you know all about that, don’t you, sir? The forgetting progress part, I mean.
Here’s a practical description of the proposed law:
The law would provide for warmer relations between clubs and the requisite local officials, having the two parties work together in identifying viable locations for privately owned grounds. As well, councils would be required to decide in 90 days on whether to green-light submitted projects, expediting a process that under current statutes can be bogged down for excessive periods of time.
Serie A is a very competitive league, especially in terms of tactics and playing style. Can you imagine how much better it would be if each club controlled a sizable piece of its own destiny?
And maybe, just maybe, some of the constant partisan bickering over financial disparity between the biggest and smallest clubs will subside, and we’ll all join hands and refocus our collective energy back on the real olive-oil-and-pane of Italian football politics: refereeing conspiracies and goal-line technology.
I’m sorry—I get a bit sentimental around the holidays.
What’s That You Say, Silvio?
This is technically old news, but if you haven’t heard this one yet, I urge you to go outside right now and watch as the cows come home, hell freezes over, the Smiths reunite and Zamparini makes a smart decision simultaneously.
Milan president and ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, not exactly a historic Juve tifoso, has actually come to Antonio Conte’s defense! What’s next, Moratti begging our forgiveness?
Silvio suggests that Antonio was, perhaps, just a bit victimized by the Italian justice system. And if anyone is qualified to know about such machinations… but I digress.
Here’s Ol’ Silvio himself, backing up our manager:
I do not know the specifics of the situation. But there would be no wonder if he (Conte) was one of those persecuted by justice, in this case by the sporting authorities.
I actually agree with something Berlusconi said. I feel a bit sick.
Chiellini Video Chat
“That’s my secret, Captain. I’m always angry.”
- Giorgio Chiellini
If you’re a Premium Member of the official Bianconeri community, you can interact with one of your heroes, the Keyser himself, Giorgio Chiellini, in a video chat this Monday. Giorgio will answer your questions live from the training center at Vinovo.
He’s the third Juventino to take part in this season’s series, following Gigi Buffon and Antonio Conte. Make sure you ask him how much he misses marking Ibrahimovic this year. I know I miss watching it.
If Chiellini ends up yelling at you on video, and you find yourself a sobbing, terrified creature soiling yourself…
Don’t worry, you’re not the first.
That’s all for now. Don’t miss the Atalanta match preview and Team Eats. See you next week!
[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)