Friday, April 22 nd, 2016
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Juventus' season preview: looking for European respectability
The shock for Conte's departure is now a distant echo: Max Allegri will have to bring his European experience in a team that has largely disappointed in the last Champions League campaigns
by Shaan Sengupta
Last Year’s Rank: First
On their way to completing a hat-trick of Serie A titles, Juventus had an incredible, record breaking season finishing with 33 wins out 38 matches and winning all of their 19 fixtures at home. Antonio Conte had the team dominating the opposition most of the time and was able to grind out favorable results when required. Despite the domestic dominance, the meek exit from the group stage of the UEFA Champions League was an extremely bitter pill to swallow and the team subsequently lost out on a great chance to play for the Europa League title at the Juventus Stadium. For a team of Juventus’ stature, Europe should be the true proving ground and last season’s disappointing continental campaign definitely put a dampener on an otherwise fabulous season.

Most Significant Signings:
Alvaro Morata (Center Forward, 21, Spain) from Real Madrid for 20million €
Patrice Evra (Left Back, 33, France) from Manchester United for 1.5million €
Kingsley Coman (Attacking Midfield, 18, France) from Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer
Roberto Pereyra (Central Midfield, 23, Argentina) on loan from Udinese for 1.5million €

Most Significant Departures:
Mirko Vucinic (Striker, 30, Montenegro) to Al-Jazira for 6.3million € Fabio Quagliarella (Striker, 31, Italy) to Torino for 3.5million € Mauricio Isla (Right Back, 26, Chile) on loan to Queens Park Rangers for 1.2million €

Transfer Market Evaluation: Earnings: 23.5million € Expenditure: 36.8million €

This summer has been one heck of a rollercoaster for the Bianconeri, bookended by Antonio Conte’s sudden departure followed by the quick appointment of Massimiliano Allegri in July, and by the nerve wracking transfer saga surrounding Arturo Vidal, his rumored move to Manchester United and his eventual decision to stay in Turin. Between these two monumental events, there were some significant additions made to the team. The arrivals of Morata, Pereyra, Coman, Evra and Romulo will give the team some much needed tactical flexibility, which has proven to be their Achille's heel, especially in Europe. Playing a stable four at the back just got a lot easier with Evra at left back. Beppe Marotta has once again made a great free transfer move in getting Kingsley Coman. If the youngster’s performance in the opening fixture against Chievo is anything to go by, then this might prove to be a major coup. The squad is still one world-class winger short of being a truly competitive European team and that is where they might rue missing out on signing Juan Iturbe and Lukas Podolski. Overall, for the money spent, the club has done some really good business and should look to add a quality wing player in January.

Tactics key and lineup:
Flexibility will be the key to what formation the team lines up in. The established 3-5-2 is still an option as this is what most of the players are familiar with and as evidenced by the match against Chievo. However, in the long term, a back four is to be expected, with the possible formations being 4-3-1-2 or 4-3-2-1. The 4-3-3 is a possibility too, but the lack of a proven high-quality winger makes this the least likely option for now. In defense, the ideal back four would be Evra, Chiellini, Bonucci and Lichtsteiner. Barzagli might be used over Bonucci for his impeccable positioning and experience, but he’s returning from a surgery and it might be a while before he sees full action. Other options at CB are Ogbonna and Caceres, while at the wingback positions, Caceres or Romulo could be used on the right and Asamoah or Chiellini could be used on the left. If playing three at the back, Chiellini, Bonucci and Barzagli would be the first options with Caceres and Ogbonna being the back up.

Pogba, Vidal and Pirlo will line up in the three in front of the defense. Allegri has said that he could see Marchisio being used as a playmaker behind the two strikers, with Pereyra being another option in that role. Marchisio can also be used as a back up to Pirlo as a regista. In case he chooses to go with two attacking midfielders behind a lone striker, he could use Tevez, Coman or Pereyra. Pereyra and Pepe also offer options in wider positions in case a 4-3-3 is used. Romulo is a defensive option in the midfield as a back up to Vidal. Up front, the partnership of Llorente and Tevez should continue to flourish and there should be some healthy competition with Morata and Coman in the mix. The arrival of these two gives Allegri the option to use three legitimate attackers, if needed.

Starting Lineup:
Buffon, Evra, Chiellini, Bonucci, Lichtsteiner, Pirlo, Pogba, Vidal, Marchisio, Llorente, Tevez

Key player:
Arturo Vidal has been the engine of this Juventus team and he will continue to be the most vital player for the team. A complete box to box midfielder, his industry, tenacity and knack for scoring goals are often what the team relies on to get out of sticky situations. How his knee holds up to the rigors of his fearless and tenacious style of play will be extremely important for him and the rest of the team.

Main objective:
Retaining the Serie A title and qualification for at least the quarter finals of the UEFA Champions League

Reasons to be optimistic:
There is a good mix of youth and experience in almost all the positions on the field. Several quality additions have been made to improve the depth of the squad to ease the rotation of the team for domestic and continental fixtures. Vidal is still a Juventus player and by his own admission, is fit and ready to give his 100% to the team. The new coach seems to be getting along very well with everyone and has got off to a winning start. The new arrivals including Allegri, provide a fresh perspective and an element of surprise, which could be a big advantage.

What could go wrong?
If Vidal’s knee injury resurfaces and continues to be a problem, it could hurt the team badly. With Pirlo out for a month with a hip injury, Vidal’s absence could hamper the establishment of momentum early in the season. And long term, this could hurt the team’s chances in the Champions League. (source for transfer fees: transfermarkt)

Wednesday, September 10 th, 2014
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