This post was guest-blogged by Vittorio Pazzini. Follow him on Twitter (@vittoriopazzini)
Hello everyone, and Happy New Year!
After a victorious 2012 welcome to the very first STTBS of 2013. We hope you all enjoyed the holiday break and didn’t suffer too much from Juve withdrawal.
For Juve and Juventini everywhere, 2013 promises to be at the very least interesting, probably excellent, and possibly even legendary. We’re in the thick of three competitions, and work is well under way on the restoration of our rightful status as European giants.
And it all starts on Sunday, as we look to close out the official first half of the schedule on a high note, at home against struggling, relegation-threatened, now Ciro Ferrara-less Sampdoria.
Then the real fun starts.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Rather, let’s get to the news.
Peluso Loaned to Juve
In the biggest move thus far in January’s mercato, Giuseppe Marotta secured the services of defender Federico Peluso from Atalanta. He’s on loan to Juve until June 30, at which point the Bianconeri have the option of buying out his contract.
This was a well-anticipated, strategic move for Juventus, as Kwadwo Asamoah will be leaving for the African Cup of Nations for up to a month, while Giorgio Chiellini is sidelined with a thigh injury.
While Peluso’s efficiency on the wing of a 3-5-2 is largely unknown, he is familiar with Conte, having played under him at Atalanta in 2009. And according to Juventus.com, versatility is his greatest asset:
Federico Peluso is a modern footballer. Not only because he can play in several positions but also because he can easily adapt to different systems of play. An all-round defender who is as equally at ease at left-back or in central defence, he gets forward well and shows the same impeccable timing in the opposition’s box as he does when stopping opposing strikers in his own.
A product of Lazio’s youth system, Peluso’s continually improving performances led to his selection by Cesare Prandelli to the Azzurri’s World Cup Qualifiers this past fall. He would go on to score in Italy’s 2-0 victory over Malta.
For his part, Federico is more than excited to join the defending champions:
It is certainly a great feeling and I am very happy. The year could not have got off to a better start. I will enjoy this splendid moment and hope to have many more. These have been the best months of my career and enabled me to arrive at Juventus. This is a dream come true.
Impressively, for someone new to the team Peluso already speaks Conte’s language:
I think all the hard work in the smaller sides has helped me a great deal, as I earned everything I’ve got and hope to put my experience on to the field. I already know what awaits me with Antonio Conte. I always leave the pitch aware I’ve given my all. In today’s football it is important to know how to play in many different roles. I started out as a full-back, but do not have a preferred position. I thank all the fans who wrote to me and hope to repay their faith with my performances.
And in the obligatory classy move befitting a new Juventino, Peluso is quick to thank his former club, so instrumental in his current good fortunes:
I thank Atalanta for everything they have given me in these seasons. I’m happy because Juventus represents an important opportunity for my career which I want to take advantage of. However, at the same time, there is sadness in leaving a club and an environment in which I was very happy.
Benvenuto alla Juventus, Federico!
Preparations continue for Juve’s clash with Sampdoria. Following the first training session of the New Year on January 2nd, a standard training session was held this morning after yesterday’s double session, which included an epic rout of a local side (see below). Here’s the official itinerary:
Juventus are 100% focused on starting 2013 with a win over Sampdoria. This morning’s training session saw the Bianconeri run through specific tactics and movements to be used against Sunday’s opponents. The players will reassemble at the training ground at 10:30 on Saturday morning for their last workout ahead of the Serie A encounter with the Blucerchiati. Conte is due to meet with journalists at the Media Center in Vinovo before putting his troops through their final preparations: the coach’s pre-match press conference is scheduled for 10 am tomorrow.
While it’s too early to know for sure, expect some turnover due to the absence of Asamoah (African Cup of Nations), Chiellini (injury) and Lichtsteiner (suspension), as well as next week’s Coppa Italia fixture vs. Milan. The word from Vinovo is that Padoin and Giaccherini are competing for a spot on the right wing, while De Ceglie is favored over new arrival Federico Peluso (see above) on the left. Caceres or Marrone will fill in for Chiellini. The attacking pair is more ambiguous, as Conte is most certainly providing for the midweek match. Stay tuned for our match preview with the latest probable lineups.
As mentioned above, Lichtsteiner will sit this one out, as he picked up his fourth yellow card in the match against Cagliari. Barzagli, Chiellini, Marchisio and Vucinic are one card away from suspension, although in Chiellini’s case it’s a moot point. Vidal, always a magnet for yellows is two away from suspension (although to his credit — fingers crossed — he seems to save his red cards for Chile).
Sampdoria are struggling in general these days, but especially on the road: They have two wins, two draws and five defeats while scoring 12 goals and conceding a whopping 17.
As with most teams, Juve have a historical advantage in their home meetings with Sampdoria, posting a record of 32 wins, 18 draws and four defeats. The last such victory was a 5-1 beating courtesy of two goals from Amauri (remember when he used to score?), plus goals from Camoranesi, Chiellini and Trezeguet. Interestingly, the last 5-1 rout of Sampdoria took place way back in the 1948-49 season, when Boniperti himself led the attack with a brace. Despite a glorious 7-2 win in 1951, the most common score between the two teams is either 1-0 or 2-0; each has occurred seven times.
Of course, these are different times, and this is certainly a different, more offensive-oriented Juve. Can we expect three or four goals on Sunday?
Valeri Referee for Sampdoria Match
Mr. Paolo Valeri of Romewill be the man in charge of Sunday’s match vs. Sampdoria.
This will be the 12th Juve match for Valeri. Under his supervision, the Bianconeri have won five matches, drawn four and lost two. Valeri last held the whistle for Juve’s 4-1 romp at Udinese on September 2.
Joining Valeri on all matters official will be Di Fiore and Costanzo (once again, Juventus.com seems to believe they’re too famous for first names). Celi and Ostinelli will be staring at the baselines and hoping to avoid making an important decision. Bianchi will be the fourth official/Japanese koto/loud man on airplane.
Juve Thrash the Hill People!
When you’ve had as successful a 2012 as Juventus, there are very few things you’ll want to change in 2013. One of them, we’ll all agree, is the Old Lady’s occasional tendency to be a little goal-shy.
Well, as good omens go, yesterday’s was a doozy. In the afternoon training session, Juventus enjoyed a 10-0 dismantling of Chieri, a team the official website describes as (I kid you not), “a team from the Turin hills who play in Serie D.”
That’s right, friends, they’re reclusive, mysterious hill people. And apparently, Juve sent them running back to from whence they came.
The afternoon started with a first-half easy-breezy 3-0 lead for the Old Lady, courtesy of goals from Matri, Marchisio and Pogba, but in the second half things really got going. Quagliarella, Giaccherini and Vidal all scored, but the most impressive attacante on the day was youth product Stefano Beltrame, who knocked in four goals. Way to play with the big boys, Stefano!
Hopefully, Sampdoria will be the next club to seek shelter in the Turin hills.
Pirlo Best Player in Serie A
It may be considered a mere consolation prize for those of us who believe Pirlo should have won the Ballon d’Or, but it’s an accolade nonetheless: According to fans voting on the official Serie A Facebook page, Andrea Pirlo was Player of the Year for 2012.
Juve’s official website paid tribute in an elegant, succinct and understated fashion quite worthy of the man himself:
Juve fans love him. Supporters of other teams fear him but can only watch in admiration. Because Andrea Pirlo is a true champion whose talents transcend all borders and rivalries. Sheer class and impeccable behaviour on and off the pitch make him an idol and an example to be upheld.
And in case you lived in a cave or supported one of the Milan teams last year (they’re pretty much the same thing), here’s a brief rundown of Pirlo’s 2012:
It’s a result that surprises no one, given the incredible consistency with which the ‘Professor’ has pulled Juve’s strings over the past 12 months. Having steered the team to Scudetto success and an Italian Super Cup triumph last season, he has guided them back to the top of the pile again this term, helping the Bianconeri qualify for the Champions League last 16 at the same time. And of course he also had a fantastic tournament for Italy at Euro 2012.
But as previously reported in this space, there is one distinction still up for grabs, not only for Pirlo, but also for Buffon, Marchisio and Barzagli. You can vote for all of them to be named to FIFA’s Team of the Year. Better make like Lichtsteiner and hurry: the deadline is tonight!
Let your Bianconeri voice be heard! Not even Sepp Blatter can silence you! Actually, he probably can by stuffing the ballot box or simply discounting your vote… oh well, vote anyway!
Fernando, Part 7, or 8… I’ve Lost Count
Welcome to another episode of the stop/start, canceled/renewed soap opera that is Juventus’ pursuit of Fernando Llorente. Athletic Bilbao, Fernando’s gatekeepers, officially announced:
Juventus has informed Athletic that, knowing Fernando Llorente’s contract expires on 30th June 2013, the Italian club will begin negotiations with the player.
It is commonly thought that Llorente will join Juve for free at the end of the season, as Bilbao have repeatedly stated that a January deal is out of the question. Giuseppe Marotta has repeatedly attempted to lure Fernando to Turin effective immediately, offering first €4 and then €7 million to Bilbao.
But if his past work is any indication, ol’ Beppe must be salivating over the thought of another free transfer, hoping for another Pirlo, as opposed to another Lucio. The man’s a true low-stakes gambler!
In the meantime, the Internet has already started weighing in on Llorente’s possible role and potential impact on Juve’s attack. While you’re waiting for a decision (hopefully not holding your breath), enjoy some of the recent speculation.
As always, your comments on Fernando and the transfer market in general are most welcome.
Buffon Close to Extension
Gigi Buffon is very close to signing a new deal with Juventus. And in a refreshing change of pace from the usual Van Persie-like pursuits of multiyear deals worth multimillions, Gigi’s demands—if you can even call them that—are extremely modest:
We need to speak about its (the contract’s) length. I want it to be a short-term deal, because I don’t need reassurance. On the contrary, I think it’s better to be motivated and to have specific targets in mind. In any case we’re down to the final details.
Buffon has continually stated that he has up to three years left at the summit of world football, and that he wishes to end his career with Juve. Giuseppe Marotta would like to tie him down until 2015 with a deal worth €3.5 million euros a season plus bonuses, but incredibly, Buffon appears to be haggling for a smaller deal.
From his countless miracle saves, through his expert marshaling of the defense, to his loyalty in 2006 and right up to the present, Buffon has rarely shown anything other than pure class.
To at least three more years!
De Ceglie’s Magic Moments
This just in from our Bureau of Truly Random News: Juventus.com felt the need to ask one — and only one — player how their New Year celebrations were. So they put on a blindfold, spun around three times and pointed at… Paolo De Ceglie! So in case you were wondering:
I was in the mountains near my hometown (Valle d’Aosta, about an hour from Turin) with my friends. It was a pleasant evening, nothing crazy, obviously.
There you have it. When asked for his defining image of 2012, Paolo cheated and named three:
The image that I took away from 2012 is that of winning the Scudetto, the celebrations against Atalanta, and also when we said farewell to Del Piero.
Finally, Paolo preached the party line on Juve’s objectives for 2013:
The New Year’s resolution is to continue winning. We mustn’t choose between one competition or another, but rather try to prove ourselves in the league and go as far as possible in the other competitions. This is our philosophy and our objective. To give our all in training to be able to then show maximum intensity during the games.
Even with Peluso joining the squad, it’s still not too late for De Ceglie to make a good impression, especially with Asamoah leaving for a month. There are plenty of minutes to go around.
In bocca al lupo, Paolino!
Much like their older brothers, Marco Baroni’s Primavera have enjoyed a very impressive run of results leading into their well-deserved holiday break. Here’s a rundown:
Between 20 October and 22 December, Baroni’s Under-19s racked up 14 wins and two draws to set them up nicely for the new year: ‘Winter Champions’ in the Primavera championship, into the last 16 (as seeds) of the NextGen Series and the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia.
Baroni was quick to praise his boys while pleading exhaustion:
We needed this break. The lads have given absolutely everything, we pushed ourselves as far as we could possibly go and managed to muster our last ounce of energy for the final few games. We go into the break on top form as far as results are concerned, we’ve grown a lot in the second part and that enabled us to climb back up the table and go through to the next round of both cup competitions.
Those hard-won results were achieved despite a spate of injuries to key players, most notably defender Joel Untersee and midfielder Simone Emmanuello. Fortunately, the injuries galvanized the squad, with each player performing his duties with distinction. Baroni:
These absences have sped up the integration of the younger players and those who have recently arrived. I know I can count on everyone, and this is crucial when considering the many commitments we have waiting for us in the second half of the season.
Keep it going, boys! As above, so below in 2013!
That’s all for today. Juve-Sampdoria is on Sunday, so stay tuned for our match preview and Team Eats. See you next week for more STTBS. 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)