This post was guest-blogged by Vittorio Pazzini. Follow him on Twitter (@vittoriopazzini)
Ciao, amici, and welcome to this very special post-Milan, pre-Parma STTBS. I expect we’re all feeling a bit better about things after last weekend’s loss to Sampdoria at Juventus Stadium?
Wednesday’s Coppa Italia triumphant slugfest with Milan was a real grind-out win, but in a perverse way that’s a good thing; it’s good to know Juve can win when they don’t dominate possession and have lengthy periods of struggle. I don’t prefer it, of course, but at rock bottom, it’s a win. And they’re pretty much always good.
Today, we’re going to analyze the Milan win, try to stay clear of that bad boy Marchisio, watch Napoli fume (and break wind — see below), and wrap our heads around the always frustrating, totally disingenuous press coverage of the January transfer market.
Them’s (Neapolitan) Fightin’ Words, Claudio!
It’s now ON, according to Napoli.
And who at Juve played the role of Cassano-like instigator? Claudio Marchisio!
That’s right: Our Principino has wounded the honor of an entire club, fanbase and region by merely being honest with the Corriere della Sera. In their Style supplement, Claudio was asked if he felt any “antipathy” with any particular player in his line of work. Here’s his answer:
It’s not any particular face, but a team, especially after the rough Coppa Italia and Supercoppa—Napoli. When I am faced with Napoli, something goes off in me.
Once Aurelio De Laurentiis and his inner circle picked themselves up off the floor, they took immediately to the press. The official statement from Napoli:
Marchisio’s comments represent a grave insult towards Napoli and all of Italian football. We are surprised that a player of his stature and who plays in such a prestigious club would say things like that. We hope it is only a misunderstanding and await clarification from the player and from Juventus.
De Laurentiis reportedly sent one of his footmen (by commandeered train, of course) to slap Marchisio in the face with a glove, then to make the necessary arrangements for a duel. No word on when the duel will take place (probably at dawn) or the weapon to be used, but it looks like Giovinco will be named as Marchisio’s “second.”
Juventus responded on their official website in the expected fashion:
Claudio Marchisio expressed a personal opinion during an interview with Corriere della Sera’s monthly magazine Style. His view was clearly a reference to the healthy rivalry between Napoli and Juventus that has led to some thrilling and hard-fought matches. No offence was intended: those who fail to understand that are simply seeking unnecessary controversy.
The tifosi’s anger is one thing, but I think it’s very rich (to put it tastefully) that De Laurentiis would officially take offense to Marchisio’s statement as if he’s some old-fashioned nobleman. But then again, when you’re a man who, when not criticizing the bathing habits of English women, is counting residuals from that film you made about a “Fartiste” (I kid you not, and it’s a true story!), you must be an authority on proper behavior.
It’s proof, if more were needed, that Napoli are still dwelling on their Supercoppa defeat, denying their culpability for their reckless display on the pitch, as well as their childish one off it.
And it probably means we won’t get Cavani. Now that really stinks.
Early Parma Updates
Juventus have officially refocused their attention on Serie A, as preparations began yesterday for the match at Parma.
But first, those who played through the epic two-hour Coppa Italia fixture received the obligatory warm-down exercises, while the rest went through an even more obligatory normal training session. This morning saw the full squad prepare in earnest for Sunday, going through an intensive tactical rundown.
Apparently, they’ll need to be on their game, because Parma are unbeaten at home, winning six and drawing three. Even Amauri’s getting in on the action, and as we’ve seen over the years, there’s really no fury like an ex-Juventino scorned.
Tomorrow will see the final training session, followed by Conte’s press conference. At this early date, there will be a few changes from the Milan match. Vucinic’s ability to go 90 minutes is still uncertain, so Sebastian Giovinco will likely partner with Quagliarella (hopefully) or Matri (hopefully not). Paolo De Ceglie is a leading candidate for Asamoah’s spot on the left, while Paul Pogba should deputize for Marchisio. Buffon will be back, and he’ll have to impress after Storari’s bravura performance on Wednesday.
The most alarming development is that Conte is still deciding between Caceres and Peluso for the last spot in defense. Of course, we all know, and Conte should know, that there’s no contest here: Caceres is a much better, safer option right now.
Having spent two successful years at Parma, Giovinco not only respects them as an organization, but also respects the potential threat they represent to the Bianconeri:
I owe Parma a great deal, they believed in me and relaunched my career. I know them well and they’ve become even more compact and harder to beat under Donadoni. However, we want to bounce back from the Sampdoria defeat and will do all we can to win. We’re getting to the most tricky part of the season, with many important games coming thick and fast. This is also a good aspect, as it means we’re still on track in every competition. We hope to keep making progress.
JuventiKnows’ Obvious Bureau has offered the best-case scenario: Giovinco scores, Amauri doesn’t. Simple, right?
De Marco’s In Charge
Andrea De Marco of Liguria will take the whistle for Juve-Parma. Andrea last presided over a Bianconeri match in December—he oversaw Juve’s 1-0 win over Palermo, better known as Antonio Conte’s Serie A homecoming. I remember the match as a bit of a slog, though I still may be traumatized from Wednesday.
This will be De Marco’s 13th Juve match. Under his thumb, the Old Lady has a record of six wins, two draws and four defeats. Assisting him will be Mauro Tonioli and Elenito Giovanni Di Liberatore (impressive name). Andrea Marzaloni has been named as the fourth official/third pie-taster on the left (your left, not mine)/second fiddle.
No word yet on who will watch the respective end lines. But we will be watching them.
Transfer Rumors: Pirlo/Lampard PR Marriage, Drogba/Llorente Faceoff
Before we start: I am reporting the following items not as any indication of Juve’s position on these matters, but rather the media’s position on Juve’s position on these matters.
First up, the most ludicrous: this one’s for fans of the Premier League, older players or castaways in general.
The British media is making the most of Frank Lampard’s impending free agency, even roping in Andrea Pirlo to manufacture Lampard-to-Juve buzz. Apparently, the 34-year-old Lampard’s contract expires in June, and Chelsea will not be giving him a new one.
Pirlo, for one, would apparently welcome him to Juventus, intimating that the slower pace would give Frank a new lease on life:
They would be mad to let Lampard leave Chelsea, he’s still one of the best in the world. If he wants to play in Italy I would welcome him to Juventus with open arms. Lampard could have another four years at the top in Italy.
Not so fast, Andrea. Guess who’s reportedly interested in stealing your beloved Lampard away? You guessed it—Fiorentina. They want everyone these days.
Meanwhile, the rumors continue about Giuseppe Marotta’s interest in Didier Drogba. Marotta recently told Domenica Sportiva:
Drogba? We are always making enquiries and we have made one for him. We have asked about his availability and after that we will look at the financial aspects and talk to the coach.
However, Antonio Conte has been consistent in denying there’s anything to the rumors. Here is talking to La Gazzetta dello Sport on January 8:
Marotta said he’s enquired about Drogba but I said his name has never been put to me. It’s normal that Marotta should make lots of enquiries, and then depending on the answers and whether something is doable he assesses things. In this case I think he made an enquiry and realised there was nothing to be said. That’s not a lie. Everyone does their own job. The club work on the transfer market and when something is viable the idea gets put to me and we weigh it up together.
Now here’s Conte talking about Llorente on the same day:
Llorente? The situation is a lot clearer there because they wrote about Juventus’ interest on the Athletic Bilbao site. I’m happy with what my strikers are doing though, and if they score I’m even happier.
Disregarding that last sentence, which pretty much sums up our collective frustration with the weird relationship between Conte and strikers, the quotes seem relatively noncommittal on both counts. But compare that to Conte’s quote about Llorente from the same paper, three days earlier:
Llorente has done very well at Athletic Bilbao. He would be a good addition because he will soon be a free agent. We are keeping our ears close to the ground. If there is any chance of us getting a player of his quality without paying anything and he wanted to join Juve, we would be more than happy to have him. One and a half years ago a champion like him would never have considered coming to Turin. This means that after winning the Scudetto Juve have rediscovered their old appeal, even abroad.
So did Antonio say what he actually felt on January 5th, then according to how negotiations progressed, did he decide to walk it back a little? Or is he just saying things to say nothing, as most coaches and directors must do to protect themselves?
There’s no getting around this endless neutrality of official statements, a product of the completely useless “rapport” between the clubs and the press.
Nothing’s official until it’s officially official.
Coppa Victory Stats
Many times, after a match like Wednesday’s, the pro-Juve Italian media and even Juve themselves will say that they “suffered” for the win. The stats from the Bianconeri’s hard-fought win certainly support that opinion.
Milan edged Juve out in possession 53% to 47%. The Rossoneri had the most shot attempts (16 to 12) and the most shots on target (9 to 7). Juve had to settle for most corners (11 to 3) and the actual win.
Seba Giovinco had the most individual shots at Marco Amelia with four. Behind him, three Milanistas followed (El Shaarawy, Montolivo and Traore) with three shots. Finally, Milan won the battle of completed passes, as Montolivo, Boateng and Abate took the honors for accuracy.
But Juve actually won. They suffered, but they won.
Marchisio Player of the Month
When he’s not enraging Neapolitans, Claudio Marchisio plays football, and very well.
He played so well in December, in fact, that he edged out Andrea Pirlo and Mirko Vucinic to win Player of the Month honors, according to a Juventus Member poll. He received the honor from a very lucky Premium Member before Wednesday’s match, although sadly, he could not play due to his injury.
But it’s nice encouragement, and even more incentive to come back stronger than ever.
Primavera Draw for Viareggio Cup
Juve’s Primavera have learned that their competition in the group stage of the prestigious Viareggio Cup will be Maribor, Leichhard and Avellino.
Maribor are from Slovenia; in fact, their senior squad are the most successful team there, winning 10 league championships. Leichhardt hail from Sydney, Down “Del Piero” Under (maybe ADP can scout their youth team for us?). Little know fact (at least to me): the club was started by Italian Australians. Finally, Avellino are perhaps more familiar to Marco Baroni’s men: they play in the Lega Pro Prima Divisione.
Here’s the full lineup:
1) Juventus, Maribor (Slovenia), Avellino, A.P.I.A. Leichhardt (Australia)
2) Inter, Nogoom El Mostakbal (Egypt), Virtus Entella, Melbourne Phoenix (Australia)
3) Torino, Honefoss (Norway), Città di Marino, Deportes Concepcion (Chile)
4) Sampdoria, Libya Under 18s (Libya), Varese, All Boys (Argentina)
5) Genoa, Rijeka (Croatia), Parma, Santos Laguna (Mexico)
6) Rappresentativa Serie D, Anderlecht (Belgium), Reggina, C.S.N.A. y Guayaquil (Ecuador)
7) Atalanta, Belasica Strumica (Macedonia), Siena, Pakhtakor (Uzbekistan)
8) Fiorentina, Nordsjaelland (Denmark), Padova, Club Nacional (Paraguay)
9) Milan, Newcastle (England), Empoli, Congo Under 17s (Congo)
10) Napoli, Honved Budapest (Hungary), Lecce, L.I.A.C. New York (USA)
11) Roma, Spartak Mosca (Russia), Spezia, Long Island (USA)
12) Lazio, Stella Rossa (Serbia), Juve Stabia, Mutual Uruguaya A-Net (Uruguay)
All For One…
I leave you today with the words of Mirko Vucinic after the Milan victory. I hope you’ll agree that Mirko has transcended his previous reputation as a frequently arrogant, sometimes selfish player.
It’s our spirit that makes this team unique. Everyone here gives their all from the first minute until the last and helps out their teammates. There aren’t any prima donnas at Juventus.
There can be no better compliment to Antonio Conte’s revitalizing, inspiring effect on the club than a player like Vucinic outlining the difference between Juve and other teams: Juve play for each other, not with each other.
That’s it for this week. Check back a presto for the Parma match preview and Team Eats, and hope for more goals than you can imagine on Sunday. Ciao for now!
[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)