Juventus Focus – 2013-2014 preview
Not since the 1930s have Juventus managed to secure three league titles in a row; a feat which Antonio Conte’s men look more than capable of achieving. Their form last season saw them never look like being outpaced to the finish line; and so it was. The new 2013-2014 season sees them look for this historic achievement amidst a vastly improving league.
An area of The Old Lady’s squad which has come under some scrutiny, and rightly so, is up top. Alessandro Matri, Fabio Quagliarella, Sebastian Giovinco and Mirko Vucinic have not frequently scored goals for the Bianconeri, and not since Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet have we saw a great deal of spark and natural goalscoring ability in the side. With the new additions this summer, Vucinic could be a player who benefits more than anyone as new potential partners have arrived. Cue Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez.
The latter of who was signed for a mere €10m, which in today’s over-inflated market is an absolute steal. Bringing Champions League experience as well as sheer determination and work rate, Tevez will fit well with the way Conte likes his players to behave on the field. Not to mention, the Argentine has a keen eye for goal and this particular attribute could be the making of him in Turin.
As well as the ex-Manchester United striker, Juventus announced back in January that Spanish hitman Fernando Llorente would join up in the summer once his contract with Athletic Bilbao expired. To say this is a steal would be an understatement; the big centre forward scored goals in abundance for the Spanish side, and he fast became a big time player for them, especially in their Europa League runs. Strong, fit and capable of scoring, if Llorente can ease into life in Serie A, then there is no reason why he will not become a favourite with the Bianconeri faithful. This “easing” into Serie A is vital, however, as he was frozen out in Bilbao last season as a result of his decision to move away. Perhaps not 100% match fit and maybe not ready for immediate pressure to score goals, if time is given by both fans and management, then he could well be a favourite for the capocannoniere come the end of the season, or next.
Defence is perhaps not an issue for Juventus. With regular high-end performances from Georgio Cheillini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli, the Juventus back line is regared as the finest in Italy. However, with a push on all competitions again this year, Conte brought in depth from across the road at neighbouring rivals Torino in the shape of Angelo Ogbonna. €13m was the price paid for a highly regarded centre back, one who will see a decent amount of action as a result of the fixtures in all competitions. With Conte’s favoured three man defence likely to remain, Ogbonna will easily fit into this and allow rest, if needed, to others. A fantastic defender for the way Juventus play and a perfect addition to the current personnel in place.
This is a part of the season which analysed in far too much detail.
Poor performances in the TIM Cup and Guinness Cup in July and August resulted in the usual barrage of criticism being launched the way of Antonio Conte. “Maybe they are not as strong as it once appeared?” This, however, was well and truly wide of the mark as Juventus crushed Lazio in the season’s curtain-raiser in Rome 4-0 to lift the SuperCoppa Italiana.
Tevez scoring, Pogba scoring, no goals conceded and the first trophy of the year in the bag. The “poor pre-season” suddenly is forgotten, and the Juve faithful can look ahead with a fair amount of confidence to the opening day of the campaign.
Conte has, himself, re-iterated the fact that pre-season is in fact a pre-season; a chance for the players to get together and gel, get accustomed to life in a new league and get fitness levels to a competitive level. The fact that Juventus players were involved in the Confederations Cup also should be taken into consideration.
In terms of Serie A, Juventus will be chased by big spenders Napoli, who have improved immensely after losing Edinson Cavani, and look a genuine threat. Gonzalo Higuain, Raul Albiol, Dries Mertins, and Pepe Reina have all arrived with Rafa Benitez as they look to take Juve’s crown, along with a host of other improvements to the squad.
Roma look good as they have strengthened with Kevin Strootman, Maicon and Gervinho. If they keep Erik Lamela, Daniele de Rossi and Miralem Pjanic, they too could be pushing the top end of the table. Fiorentina have strengthened with Mario Gomez from Bayer Munich to boost their goals. Additions of Josep Ilicic and Joaquin are also likely to result in a vast improvement for the Viola.
Of course, the two Milan clubs will have something to say as usual, and with Inter rebuilding after a dreadful campaign last year and Milan adding the finishing touches to a Mario Balotelli-centric side, it looks to be one of the strongest Serie A league campaigns for a long time.
Due to the strength of the league this season, Juventus will find it tougher than last, naturally, but having improved themselves and kept the core of the Scudetto winning sides of the last two seasons, the squad have a great chance of making history. A solid defence, a creative and strong midfield and now, goals. The Champions League may be a step too far as there are some unbelievable sides out there (just look at the Bayern game last season), but depending on the draw, who knows? Juventus will be favourites to progress from the group stages as a minimum; that is certain. Antonio Conte has delivered for the past two seasons at Juventus, and with the way the side is set up for the new campaign, he looks likely to continue this for the third consecutive season.
Serie A: Winners
Coppa Italia: Final
Champions League: Quarter Final
Player to Watch: Paul Pogba
Top Goalscorer: Mirko Vucinic