Introducing Juventus, the ‘other’ team

Marty Gleason Roar Pro

By Marty Gleason, Marty Gleason is a Roar Pro

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    The Champions League final isn’t just the Barcelona coronation.

    It might not even feature that at all. There might be a new champion of Europe from outside the current cabal of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, named Juventus.

    In the olden days Juventus were one of Europe’s champion teams, usually featuring a who’s who of Italian football, but they unbelievably choked in four Champions League finals to inferior opposition: to Hamburg in 1983, Borussia Dortmund in 1997, Real Madrid in 1998 and Milan in 2003.

    The new Juventus era effectively began in 2006 – perhaps for the worse, though maybe they are relieved to have been forced to modernise. At the same time Juve stalwarts Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro and Gianluca Zambrotta were hitting the greatest heights and winning the 2006 World Cup with Italy, Juventus were found guilty of match-fixing and relegated to Serie B for the first ever time.

    Juve had always represented old money and power in Italy, and much resentment had arisen towards them over the decades in Italy. Juve have traditionally been ‘favoured’ by referees there, winning a disconcerting number of Italian titles after controversial matches. Ironically Fabio Cannavaro himself complained about this as a green Parma player in 2000, a few years before crossing over to eventually become Juve captain.

    Calciopoli put a temporary end to all of that. Juventus played second fiddle in Italy until 2012. That was the season Milan decided that midfielder Andrea Pirlo’s best days were done and released him.

    It changed the entire dynamic of Italian football. Juventus have since won four consecutive Italian League titles and Pirlo, one of Italy’s historically greatest midfielders, has played on and on, laconically but iconically jogging around, receiving passes from his defenders and dishing them off to the wings.

    It has been a battling Champions League campaign for Juve, squeezing home wins and sweating away draws with all hands on deck. Given this, perhaps the key performers for Juve are the endurance-runner midfield of Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal.

    Pogba is a striking case. He is a tall, black Frenchman with a blond mohawk playing in centre midfield, a position that favours players with low centres of gravity. Watching him against Real Madrid, I marvelled at how well he keeps the ball under pressure, how he pivots, his long running strides. He is 22 years old and gives the impression that he will be the dominant midfielder of world football once Iniesta, Robben and the like are ‘dead’.

    The main man up front is a reborn Carlos Tevez. His natural gifts are plenty but harnessing them has had its ups and downs over the years. He’s short and squat and can be either skilful or bullocking. His career had hit such a snag that he did not make it into Argentina’s 2014 World Cup squad. These two recent seasons with Juventus, however, have been the best of his career. In the final against Barcelona one of his direct opponents in the defence will be his best mate Javier Mascherano.

    These players up front for Juve might end up being mere bonuses. Juventus fancy a solid possession game, but against Real Madrid in Spain there was much grunt work to be done, and I fancy they will also have to put in some solid elbow grease shutting down Barcelona’s attacking options. The most famous names of Juve’s defensive structure are Giorgio Chiellini, Patrice Evra on the left and long-time goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, now 37-years-old.

    But the midfield diamond of Pirlo, Marchisio, Vidal and Pogba will probably also have to funnel back for stretches of the final. Once they win the ball, Pogba and Marchisio will try to work out Juve’s passing build-up. They will also try long passes to Tevez and hope he can work something out with fellow forward Alvaro Morata, often in isolation. Chilean Vidal will have to sprint forward from midfield to help with attacks before they break down, and will spend his day running back and forth.

    Another set of opponents with a history will be Chiellini versus Barca centre forward Luis Suarez. When Chiellini’s Italy played Suarez’s Uruguay at the 2014 World Cup, Chiellini spent the match trying to wind Suarez up emotionally (often a tactic against temperamental players) and succeeded when Suarez jumped at a corner kick and bit him on his shoulder. Barcelona will counsel Suarez to be careful with his emotions.

    Likely line-ups: Juve will feature Buffon in goal and a back four of Liechsteiner, Bonucci, Chiellini and Evra. If they go for five defenders they’ll add Andrea Barzagli. Liechsteiner and Evra often overlap on attack but given their direct opponents are Neymar and Messi will be circumspect on this point.

    Juve’s midfield will be Pirlo behind the midfield, Pogba and Marchisio in the centre and Vidal at the front tip. Juve’s diamond will have to flatten out on defence to check the likes of wing-backs Dani Alves and Jordi Alba advancing for Barca, who would otherwise have no direct opponent. Vidal will have to check that Barca’s Busquets is not free to pass the ball around and set a tempo.

    Tevez will drop into attacking centre midfield and Morata will stay up. Tevez is the key to Juve’s attack.

    Marty Gleason has reviewed each season from 1998 to 2014 at martygleason.wordpress.com

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    The Crowd Says (12)

    • June 5th 2015 @ 3:31am
      Redsback said | June 5th 2015 @ 3:31am | ! Report

      It’s perhaps fair to say that Tevez’s exclusion from the 2014 Argentina lineup wasn’t an ability-based decision. A very poor non-selection indeed and that is not hindsight talking, it was apparent to most at the time.

      • Roar Guru

        June 5th 2015 @ 12:05pm
        Kaks said | June 5th 2015 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

        Tevez never showed the same ability/desire when playing for Argentina as he has playing for Juventus currently. He was also seen as a divisive force, as he was the case at Man City just the season before.

        Hard to argue his exclusion when Argentina still had;
        – Sergio Aguero who is absolutely sublime
        – Higuain who is very competent and had a great season at Napoli
        – Palacio who had a very good 13/14 season at a weaker Inter team than Tevez’s Juventus (Palacio only scored 2 less league goals)
        – Lavezzi who is a very good player and been part of the Argentina set up for years
        – Messi, the greatest player to ever play the game

        Had Aguero remained fit, or had Argentina won the World Cup, then there would be no argument for Tevez. However the fact that Argentina didnt win makes people throw the ‘what if’ hyperbole around.

        I see Argentina going as far as the final justifying the decision to leave a divisive player like Tevez out of the team.

        • Roar Pro

          June 5th 2015 @ 12:42pm
          Marty Gleason said | June 5th 2015 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

          Argentines all seem very taken with Tevez, possibly for cultural reasons. I briefly went to the World Cup last year. The first thing I did was take a taxi in Argentina and the driver’s first response was, “We need Tevez.” In my mind I was like, “This sort of thing is why Argentina’s won nothing for twenty years” (ie the saviour syndrome, no focus on the defenders etc).

          • Roar Guru

            June 5th 2015 @ 1:34pm
            Kaks said | June 5th 2015 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

            Marty

            Seems to be a South American thing. Its all about entertainment and attack/playing beautifully rather than having truly gifted defenders.

            The fact that Argentina went as far as they did with the defence they had and Sergio Romero in goals says a lot about how good their forwards were, which solidifies my thought that Tevez was not needed.

            They have defenders like Demichelis, Garay and Otamendi who are good players, but always look like they have a mistake or two in them every time they play.

            • Roar Pro

              June 6th 2015 @ 3:44pm
              Wolly said | June 6th 2015 @ 3:44pm | ! Report

              Wasn’t always the case though. It wasn’t so long ago that Brazil had Cafu and Roberto Carlos. But I agree in the sense that the focus is primarily in attack.

        • June 6th 2015 @ 12:55am
          Redsback said | June 6th 2015 @ 12:55am | ! Report

          If Tevez had been in Higuain’s position when the ball was headed back to him in the final with no one to beat but the keeper, Argentina would be world champions. Palacio was very poor in the world cup and probably would have been the one to miss out had they gone with Tevez.

          As for Argentina focusing on attack, that’s true, but they just don’t have the defenders. Notwithstanding that, they let in how many goals in the tournament? 2 or 3 in 7 games. Their defence held up pretty well.

          The reality is that they lost it when Di Maria got injured in the QF. He was their best player in the tournament by far.

    • Roar Pro

      June 5th 2015 @ 8:05am
      Marty Gleason said | June 5th 2015 @ 8:05am | ! Report

      Believe it or not I actually agreed with Tevez’ exclusion, although I hadn’t followed his career in 2013-14 as much as I should have.

      He was sent off for Argentina twice in the 2010 qualifiers. He was part of a 2010 WC team that was something of a disaster. He did not contribute well in the 2011 Copa America. His club career had been in the shit for a number of years. Aguero was a like-for-like replacement. It’s just that no one knew he’d be injured, how little Higuain would contribute or even how off Messi would be.

      In hindsight Tevez would have added something to a fairly pedestrian team, but there was a lot against him at the time.

      Best reagrds

    • June 5th 2015 @ 9:52am
      Steve said | June 5th 2015 @ 9:52am | ! Report

      Agree Marty. Tevez now is a completely different beast to this time last season. He, Vidal, Marchisio and Pogba are their key men.

      As great a player as Pirlo was (and he was a great player – one of my favourites ever) he could be a massive liability. I thought he was quite poor against Real in both legs, giving the ball away frequently – something he rarely used to do. His long range passes were off, and while he ran a lot he was still guilty of losing his man in defence. He still has the quality to change the game via a free-kick, either indirect or direct. I just wonder whether from Allegri’s perspective it is perhaps better to bring Pirlo on later in the game, where his free-kick weapon can be more decisive, and play Sturaro or Pereyra from the onset. They will add that solidity to midfield that Pirlo increasingly does not possess.

      Either way it is going to be a massive match. The main question for me will be how they handle Messi. Evra vs Messi is a complete mismatch. How much help will Pogba provide from the left? He can be a bit lazy tracking back. The Messi factor for me is the reason why I’d play a more mobile and more defensively minded player than Pirlo as the DM so they can counteract Messi.

    • Roar Pro

      June 5th 2015 @ 11:14am
      Marty Gleason said | June 5th 2015 @ 11:14am | ! Report

      They’re going to have to stay solid, that’s for sure. I wondered about how Juve will tackle Barca’s obvious massive strengths on the wings. Michael Cox at zonalmarking.net had something to say about that re Juve’s victory over Real Madrid:

      http://www.zonalmarking.net/2015/05/15/real-madrid-1-1-juventus-real-attack-through-the-full-backs-but-juve-hold-on/

      Scroll to the mini-headline “Juve flatten their diamond”.

      How they do that against a team as on as Barca is perhaps another matter.

      Best regards

    • June 5th 2015 @ 11:48am
      Sandy said | June 5th 2015 @ 11:48am | ! Report

      dissapointing to see that cellini will miss the game with a calf strain. barzaglia is also in doubt so does make the task of defending MSN that much harder.

      Pogba needs to regain the form he had prior to his injury if juve are to have any chance.

      will be a great game and not as clear cut as some may think.

    • Roar Pro

      June 5th 2015 @ 12:37pm
      Marty Gleason said | June 5th 2015 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

      Geez, without Barzagli and Chiellini their defence is completely decimated. We also have above commenter Steve doubting the defensive skills of both Pirlo and Pogba in a team that will have to spend much of the match defending.

      On the plus side if they call pull it off against these odds it will be legendary to Juve and perhaps finally give them a Champs League final they can cherish (1985 was too difficult an experience).

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