This post was guest-blogged by Vittorio Pazzini. Follow him on Twitter (@vittoriopazzini)
Welcome back, amici.
Juventus host bottom-of-the-table Siena on Sunday, but if we’ve learned anything from supporting Juve, it’s that a match against a minnow presents a classic trap for the Bianconeri.
Take them too lightly or look ahead to Napoli next week, and Juve risk not only dropping three precious points before playing our Scudetto rivals, but also losing any momentum and confidence gained from February’s surge.
Of course, try as we might, we can’t totally ignore the important fixtures over the horizon, and you’ll find in today’s STTBS that we do give into temptation once or twice.
And now, the news…
Latest Updates on Siena Clash
Preparations began in earnest for the Siena match on Wednesday afternoon in a two-hour session. Antonio Conte’s men were put through the specific athletic drills, technical exercises and tactical strategies for a Tuscan side whose struggle for Serie A salvation has led to some impressive results of late.
Yesterday, the ragazzi suffered through freezing temperatures to refine their specific anti-Siena plans, and this afternoon saw another training session blanketed by snow. As always, the work goes on.
We can rest assured that Conte acknowledges Siena’s threat, not only for their desperate bid to avoid relegation to Serie B and their recent run of good form, but also for who they’ve taken down. Siena has upset top-of-table teams Lazio and They Who I Will Soon Name, Simply Because I Feel I’m Giving Them Too Much Power by Not Naming Them. The impressive performances of their top striker Innocent Emeghara, scorer of four goals in his last three appearances, are perhaps the salient feature of Siena’s recent success.
The good news is that Siena’s wins have mainly come at home, as their only road win this season has come at San Siro back in September against, once again, TWIWSN,SBIFIGTTMP.
As mentioned earlier in the week, no one is suspended for Juve. And that’s not the only good news.
Giorgio Chiellini is apparently ready for action, having trained in earnest this week, including participating in two reduced-pitch practice matches. Conte’s tough decision will be whether to start him, or else risk not using him at all. The choice is complicated further by reports that Martin Caceres has complained of some back trouble, as well as the possibility that Conte may want to rest Andrea Barzagli to avoid yellow cards. In any event, barring any setbacks, the Keyser WILL be ready for Napoli.
At this early juncture, it seems as if Conte is mulling over some turnover, particularly in attack, in view of the subsequent Napoli clash. Arturo Vidal could possibly be rested in favor of Paul Pogba, while Mirko Vucinic will likely make way for Sebastian Giovinco, who has done a good deal of sitting in 2013.
Interestingly, Alessandro Matri’s run of good form may actually hinder his chances of starting, or maybe even featuring at all. Normally (or what passes for normal in the precarious world of Juve strikers), Matri would be in favor to partner Giovinco, but as he is a yellow card away from suspension, Conte might prefer to play it safe for Napoli, and thus start Fabio Quagliarella or Nicholas Anelka.
In any event, it would be foolhardy to forecast Conte’s choices. Like The Lord and Nicholas Cage, Antonio Conte works in mysterious ways.
Celi: Lucky Charm?
Good news if you’re the superstitious type: Sunday’s referee has presided over some quality Bianconeri victories, including one historic occasion.
Domenico Celi, who is nearing his 100th Serie A match, has officiated seven Juventus matches, of which Juve won six and drew one. Moreover, Celi ran three matches last season, including the first official Serie A match at Juventus Stadium, the memorable 4-1 rout of Parma in September 2011 which arguably set the tone for the Scudetto-winning season.
Celi’s linesmen will be Francesco Altomare and Andrea Crispo. Giancarlo Rubino will reprise his award-winning role as fourth official/man-with-a-tragic-past-for-whom-it’s-not-too-late-for-redemption.
Previous Siena Encounters
Turin has witnessed very few contests between Juve and Siena, owing to the latter club having played in the lower levels of Italian football for the first 55 years of its existence. But while the history of this fixture may be brief, it nevertheless conforms to the familiar pattern of Bianconeri (Juve, not Siena) dominance.
Since their first meeting in 2001, Juventus is undefeated against Siena, tallying five wins and two draws. Sadly, most of the damage done to the Tuscan side came from the boots of Alex Del Piero, who scored eight goals in six years, including a memorable hat-trick in a 4-2 victory at the Stadio delle Alpi in 2004.
Other highlights from la bandiera include a masterful back heel in 2005 and a majestic 35-yard free kick in 2009. And for those of you with a long memory for the traumatically disappointing, I do not need to remind you that Del Piero scored twice in that infamous match under Zaccheroni in which Juve surrendered a three-goal lead, allowing Siena to earn a draw.
Incidentally, a goalless draw was the very last result between the two, in February of last year. Small sample-size notwithstanding, it’s worth noting that the most frequent scoreline is a 2-0 Juve victory, which happened twice; both occasions involved goals by David Trezeguet.
Strikers who struck, and quite frequently, too. The nature of our past success against Siena provides a very timely example for our current Bianconeri attacanti to follow.
Matri: No Distractions
As we’ve witnessed many times in the past year or so, playing for Juventus seems to come with an inordinate amount of distractions, not least by the press.
For Alessandro Matri, who at times this season has had the downcast look of one who’s reading too many pink newspapers, this must be especially annoying right now, as he looks to maintain his good form and preferential position in the attacking pecking order.
So whether or not he plays Sunday, for Matri, there will be looking forward to Napoli, nor dwelling on the loss to Roma:
We’re just thinking about the game against Siena which is currently the most important as far as we’re concerned. We know that it represents a complicated fixture, they’re in good shape both mentally and physically, they’ll come here to sit back before looking to break on the counter.
We all sat down and analyzed our performance (at Roma) together. Not much went right for us, the game began badly and ended even worse. We’ve understood the errors we committed and now we’ll set off again with the same desire to win that we’ve always possessed. We can’t think about Napoli at present, even if I don’t believe the game at the San Paolo will be decisive as far as the destiny of the title is concerned.
As proven several times in the past, Ale usually responds more to starting in successive matches, as opposed to coming on as a substitute. That is no less true now: Matri has scored thrice in his last four starts, which for this Juve squad makes him Lionel Messi. Ale knows how his confidence works:
I’m currently in better shape than I was a few months ago, but I’ve always worked hard to improve. On the pitch, however, sometimes things go well and other times less so. It’s pleasing to know that certain people are now starting to believe in me again. I’ve never thought about leaving Juve, the club has always been right behind me and that’s the only thing that I’ve ever been interested in.
Whether that’s positive self-talk or closer to reality is up for debate, as is anything anyone says to the press these days. But for the time being, Ale is top of the heap in Turin.
Marchisio Looks Forward (and Walks It Back a Bit)
I assume Claudio Marchisio is aware of the pitfalls of looking too far ahead in the schedule, but I realize that with the media being the particular beast it is, he can’t always get around it.
Plus, he can always state the obvious:
The aim is to win the championship again and to get to London for the Champions League Final. I know that it is a difficult ask, but we’ll try everything possible in order to do just that.
It would be easy to think of this as just a boilerplate statement, but in a season where Juve is proving to be a legitimate European threat, Marchisio’s words have added weight.
While not everyone will take Juve’s Champions League prospects so seriously, there will inevitably be some who construe it as a glove-slap in the face of Continental football. Which I think is just as well in Marchisio’s case. After all, it’s not like he’s a stranger to “real” fabricated controversy.
That’s why months later, he still has to walk back his allegedly “anti-Napoli” statements in preparation for next week’s showdown:
I was actually acknowledging Napoli for their excellent results over these past few years. I don’t hate Napoli, that’s absurd because every time that I go there I always manage to smile. We leave the fog behind and we find a place in the sun, with marvelous people and incredible scenery. I’m convinced it will be a spectacle, a great game between great sides.
The “fog” was a nice touch, good-naturedly knocking Turin while wisely reciting from official Neapolitan tourist brochures. He must have learned something about being ambassadorial from Buffon and Del Piero.
Even in interviews, he’s becoming a top player.
Despite crashing out of the Viareggio Cup, Marco Baroni’s Primavera side are just as busy, if not more, that the senior squad. They are currently still competing in the U-21 league, Coppa Italia Jr. and the Next Generation Series.
Juventus The Younger are riding a 12-game winning streak in the league which finds them at the top of the league table, seven points ahead of Mini Torino (that’s gotta feel good) and nine points up on Lower Fiorentina. According to Juventus.com, there are eight matches remaining, in which a sustained run of good form will see Baroni’s boys in one of the top two spots, automatically qualifying for the national finals.
In the Coppa Italia, the Primavera ran through Siena, Sampdoria and Torino to earn a spot in the final for the second year in a row. This time around, Little Juve will look to seek revenge for their loss against Roma last year by dismantling Napoli in a two-legged fixture—in Turin on March 13th and then at Napoli on the 23rd.
Finally, there’s the Next Generation Series, which is just entering the knockout stages. The Bianconeri went unbeaten in the first round (the only team to do so) and they will take on Rosenberg on March 7 in Round of 16.
A crowded schedule, to be sure, but one providing ample opportunity to make an impression, individually and collectively, on those higher up. Besides, their young legs can probably take it.
The Coaches of Tomorrow… Today!
Lately, it seems that the ongoing organizational, technological and medical improvements at Juventus are approaching science fiction. Next to Juventus, the inner workings of the rest of world football (surely the rest of Serie A) are starting to seem pre-discovery-of-fire.
Now, the Bianconeri Universe is expanding into a nebulous intersection of advanced coaching strategies, corporate training methods and progressive sports medicine which looks to put La Vecchia Signora even further ahead of the curve.
Sign up now: Juventus Stadium is now offering coaching workshops designed to educate “the aspiring coaches of tomorrow.”
This past weekend saw the venue host a series of “informative talks” featuring key Juve backroom staff lecturing on their respective areas of expertise. Here’s the rundown from the website:
A number of topics were covered over the course of the weekend. Club doctors Fabrizio Tencone and Luca Semperboni handled the medical aspect, coaches Claudio Gabetta, Alessandro Ramello and Alessio Pini discussed the demands associated with training a team, while fitness coach Ivan Teoli provided an insight into the methods required to maintain players at the peak of their physical condition.
Saturday 16 February was dedicated to the technical knowledge required on matchdays, with particular attention paid to pre-match tactical instructions, managing the side throughout the 90 minutes and post-match assessment.
Sunday 17 February focused on the importance of training and methods used to get the best out of potential talent both psychologically and physically.
Juventus are no longer just a football club. Now they’re an institute nurturing the next mutant strain of supercoaches.
I encourage any and all X-Men analogies you can dream up, friends.
A player relatively new to Juventus spoke to kids who are relatively new to Juve, to football, and arguably life in general.
Federico Peluso was the keynote speaker at the fifth edition of Formazione Juventus, a series of talks designed to impart the virtues of hard work and professionalism in the younger members of the youth academy.
And honestly, from the picture on Juve’s website, it looks like many of these kids need such a lesson. Look at how many of them are slouching! Sit up straight when a member of the senior squad is talking to you! And one of them actually has his back to Peluso — what nerve!
It wasn’t like that in my day… actually, it was exactly like that, probably worse.
Peluso shared his formative experiences with the young ones, and hopefully somewhere in the process he managed to teach them the greatest lesson of all: how to rebound from a disastrous first appearance for Juve.
It all began at Lazio, at a ridiculously early age:
I played anywhere, all I needed was a ball and I couldn’t hold myself back. I joined a soccer school at the age of five, then I was signed by Lazio where I progressed through the entire youth system. I still remember when they gave me the bag: it was like a dream come true, also because I came from a family of staunch Lazio fans.
Federico was keen to stress how his relatively average size and preliminary class ranking were overcome by the necessary hard work and complete dedication:
I’ve always played in defense, even though I had other characteristics as a child. I was a late developer, from 14 years old onwards. Before I was one of the smallest. I’ve had to make many sacrifices to get to where I am, there’s no doubt about that, but the satisfaction provided by this career has been more than worth it. I wasn’t top of the class, but I always worked hard. My family believed I should do so and becoming a professional footballer certainly isn’t something that should be taken for granted.
Education is at the base of everything and Juventus have a great deal of belief in this aspect. This course proves just that and I believe it should also be taken as an example by other clubs.
I hope these kids know exactly how lucky they are. Not only are they being nurtured by one of the greatest football clubs of all time, at state-of-the-art facilities, but they are benefiting from a level of attention and degree of professionalism that I imagine is at least rare, and at most an anomaly.
Somehow, I can’t picture these classes taking place at Napoli (sorry, just warming up zingers for next week).
That’s all for today. Siena’s on Sunday, and then (and we’re not officially saying this, but) the real fun starts.
Ciao until then…
[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)