This post was guest-blogged by Vittorio Pazzini. Follow him on Twitter (@vittoriopazzini)
Ciao everybody, and welcome to Friday’s STTBS.
Juventus are officially about to enter another stretch of compressed fixtures on all three fronts. Lazio await us next week in the Coppa Italia, and Celtic lie just over the horizon.
And it all starts tomorrow with Udinese, who will visit Juventus Stadium looking to add to our recent misery (which, to be truthful, is relatively pleasant, as misery goes).
Today, we’re going to worry about the health of our midfield, grow impatient with the transfer window, wag our finger at Napoli (again), raise a toast to the success of two of our own, and of course, prepare for the arrival of our black-and-white counterparts. And we just might celebrate the arrival of reinforcements…
Here’s the news.
First up: News falling somewhere on the spectrum of “worrisome” to “bad.”
The Udinese match could shape up to be a selection headache for Antonio Conte, and a very nerve-wracking match for us. A string of sudden physical ailments have jeopardized the availability of four Bianconeri, who now include the entire MVP midfield.
Andrea Pirlo skipped today’s practice after suffering a “soleus strain” in his right calf. Arturo Vidal also missed training today, tending to bruises sustained from twisting his right ankle.
Meanwhile, Claudio Marchisio is training individually in a bid to be fully fit for tomorrow night. Finally, Fabio Quagliarella suffered “an inflamed tendon in the long adductor muscle of his left thigh.”
According to the official site, “The players’ conditions will continue to be monitored over the coming days.”
Oh, boy. I’m having nightmares of another Padoin appearance. Actually, knowing Conte, that’s probably going to happen anyway.
Focus on Udinese
Minus their walking wounded, Juve were put through their paces this week in preparation for Udinese.
On Wednesday Conte started with athletic work, ball-possession exercises and a tactical run-through before ending with a practice match.
Thursday, Conte was apparently a “vocal presence throughout as he led his men through the precise systems to be deployed against the Zebrette at Juventus Stadium.” The emphasis for this session was on attacking (thank heavens).
Hopefully that includes actually scoring.
Saturday is the last training session before the match. It will take place at 2.30 p.m. Italian time.
Banti’s the Boss (Not in the Springsteen Sense)
Luca Banti of Tuscany (hopefully not Florence itself) takes control of his second Juve match this season. His last outing was our 6-1 free football clinic for Pescara back in November.
Banti has taken the whistle for 13 Bianconeri matches, wherein Juve have 10 wins, two draws, and two losses.
Banti’s linesmen will be Giulio Dobosz and Michel Giordano. Fabio Pietro Galloni is the very lucky fourth official/man with parrot/backup generator.
Previously with Udinese
Unsurprisingly, the Bianconeri have dominated at home against Udinese, with 28 wins, four draws and six losses. But, as the official site notes, “it’s important to note that the Zebrette have improved significantly in recent times.” Juve will ignore that at their own peril.
Probability-wise, the likeliest outcome based on past results would be a 1-0 victory for the Bianconeri (hopefully not—we all need to see at least three goals). Juventus.com has posted the salient point of all seven occasions with that score:
1953 – Olivieri’s side posted a 1-0 victory on 1 November, Juventus’ 56th birthday.
1982 – The young Galdersi proved to be the match winner.
1994 – Gianluca Vialli secured victory in a trophyless campaign for the Bianconeri.
2003 – Part of a six game win streak en route to another Serie A title.
2006 – Alessandro Del Piero’s second-half finish settled the tie.
2008 – Amauri’s goal was the difference in the Bianconeri’s first win of the season
2009 – A rare strike from Fabio Grosso was enough to provide the points.
Remember when Amauri made a difference? Remember when the bloom was only about half-off Grosso’s rose (I’ll always love you, Fabio—“non ci credo!”)?
In their first meeting this season, Juve ran away with a 4-1 win, thanks in part to a brace from Sebastian Giovinco.
The way things are going lately with the attack, I will happily settle for two very wonderful strikes.
Lichtsteiner Says “Calm Down”
Stefan Lichtsteiner thinks we’re all worrying over nothing, and doesn’t mind telling us so.
Here’s the Swiss Express talking to Sky Sport Italia about Juve’s winless predicament thus far this calendar year:
We were hurt by the home defeat to Sampdoria and we allowed Parma a way back into the game on Sunday. But there’s absolutely no need to talk about a crisis. We’ve dropped five points out of six, but we also did the same at this point last year. Udinese are a great team and we need to pay close attention to the pace they possess in their ranks. All our opponents put in a top performance when they play against us and we’re aware of that.
“But we’ve got to try and win everything. Clearly it will be tough, but we have quality and Juve’s mentality must always consist of taking to the field with the aim of winning every game and competition we face.
With all of our struggles on the left side of the pitch, it’s reassuring to know that Lichtsteiner’s on the other side, at least for defensive purposes, if not for one a goalscoring opportunity off one of those patented telepathic Pirlo passes.
Transfers: Fernando in Arrivo?
We appeared to be stuck: Until this morning, there was still no word on an impending transfer of a “top player,” or even an adequate striker. Not much changed over the past few days, and all speculation to the contrary was not even worthy of the name.
Talks were ongoing with Genoa over the return of Ciro Immobile, with one new wrinkle: Although director Rino Foschi has ruled out Ciro’s departure (“Enough of this, I can’t take any more. I say, for the tenth time, that he is not available for transfer.”), Juve seemed to have a bargaining chip in Reto Ziegler. Genoa admittedly wants him, but they’re apparently pretending that the two deals are mutually exclusive.
Meanwhile, the Bianconeri have handed Fernando Llorente an ultimatum: Take about £3 million or leave us alone. Apparently, Giuseppe Marotta and company are sick and tired of being jerked around for months and months. But lo and behold, this might have worked!
Marca is reporting that Llorente is a Juventino starting in June, and that the announcement is imminent. They also report that he will sign a contract for 4.5 million euros a season, which would last until 2017. It would be a totally free transfer. Obviously, more on this as it develops.
Hold on, amici, it’s almost over!
Napoli Keeps It Classy
It’s been a red-letter week for Napoli and their mild-mannered, docile fans.
When the tifosi aren’t terrorizing the Italian railway system and their boss isn’t buying players with the proceeds from a film about a flatulent nightclub entertainer, the Baby Blue faithful like to express their creativity. And Hamsik and co. must have really inspired them this week.
On Tuesday, some Neapolitan whiz kid created a smartphone app allowing you to “beat Marchisio.” The app features an image of Claudio’s face, which one can tap, creating increasingly heavy bruises.
Then yesterday, another fan defaced the outside of Juventus Center at Vinovo, scrawling various profane insults and defamations at Juve, Conte, Marchisio, and for some reason, Luca Marrone. The basic gist of it was, “I have no respect for those who don’t respect Napoli.”
Now, it’s a cold fact that every group of tifosi has its share of despicable people, and I hope the cameras installed at Juventus stadium are being used to weed them out of our otherwise genial fanbase. But lately, Napoli and their fans have been out of control.
Why? Not because their reactions were outsized, belligerent, menacing, or all three. It’s because they were all misjudged, outrageous overreactions to Marchisio’s honest admission that basically, he’s really fired up when playing Napoli. Did he shade his comments towards a muted criticism of Napoli’s behavior at the Supercoppa? Yes. Was anything he said cruel, or deserving of what now amounts to three wildly disproportionate counterattacks?
Not in the least.
When their owner refers to said comments as a “grave insult” and two of his fanbase create such reprisals, are Napoli not proving what Marchisio said under his breath?
Are they not being “antipatico,” or “unpleasant, disagreeable”?
Buffon’s 25-Year Reign
Another accolade has been bestowed on our captain, Gigi Buffon, and this time his achievement covers a quarter of a century.
According to the International Federation of Football History and Statistics, Buffon is the best goalkeeper of the last 25 years.
The federation, based in Germany, polled “selected editorial staff and experts from all the football continents” to name the best shot-stopper from 1987 to 2012.
Gigi was followed by Iker Casillas, Edwin van der Sar, Peter Schmeichel and Oliver Kahn, in that order. Walter Zenga was the next Italian nomination, at No. 8.
While Gigi’s top ranking wasn’t anything we didn’t already know, it sure is something all the same. Can you imagine being thought of as the best person on the planet at any one skill? It boggles the mind.
Bravissimo, San Gigi! To (at least) a few more years of superiority!
Pirlo’s UEFA Acceptance Speech
Finally, we leave you with a short inspirational video wherein Andrea Pirlo recounts the past year, divulges the secret of his success, renews his commitment to excellence, and thanks you—yes YOU—for his selection to the UEFA World XI for 2012.
The video took its time loading (at least for me), but no one hurries Pirlo, not even in the digital realm.
That’s all for now, folks. Stay tuned for our match preview and Team Eats. See you next week; hopefully we’ll all be recovering from celebrating so many goals. Ciao!
[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)