Saturday evening and Inter superbly (although rather predictably) defeated Bologna but, for once, the fans in Turin were not worried. Their anticipation was only growing as tomorrow would be the day in which a glowing Juventus would take to the pitch against Udinese. The two teams would oppose each other in contrasting situations – Juve, high on self-esteem, welcomed players back from the treatment room while the Zebrette were injury weakened and looking for their first league win since October. Juventus’ most significant return would be the comeback made by Alessandro Del Piero and, after Francesco Totti brilliantly thrashed Bari on Sunday afternoon, Juventini worldwide took it as a sign that their very own idol would do the same that night alongside the gifted Diego. The stadium was heaving and the proud roar of the Curva Sud was echoing all around. Del Piero was starting on the bench but it was ok, their favourite mini starlet, Sebastian Giovinco, would be handed a starting position instead and il Capitano would surely make an appearance after half time.
Cue the whistle at home and the Old Lady did not disappoint. She parked her greatest striking assets in the Zebrette’s half for a good 15 minutes, taking shot after shot and, for a moment, the home fans felt sorry for the visitors who looked like they were inevitably going to concede a few. Except that’s where all the excitement ended. The next half an hour saw the Bianconeri laboriously attempting to break the giant brick wall Udinese erected but to no avail and the match was goalless at half time. Finally it was a piece of magic from the usually highly criticised full-backs that earned Juventus their first goal. A beautiful flick from Christian Poulsen sent the ball to Martin Caceres who cleverly passed it to Fabio Grosso to score and the Old Lady was one up. Ironically, the full-backs, along with the despised blonde Dane, proved to be the surprise package of the night. With every performance, Caceres is guaranteeing his place as right-back and a Bianconeri jersey next season too and Poulsen has finally learnt the art of defence as he produced awesome tackles and won back countless balls on Sunday night. As for Grosso, he surely was the greatest bargain of the summer. Great run, great positioning and a fabulous, fearless strike secured him a first and emotional goal for Juventus.
Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the Brazilian contingent. Both Felipe Melo and Amauri were struggling to really make a difference – whilst the striker hardly moved, the midfielder could barely make an adequate pass. It was Diego who disappointed the most however, and you have to feel sorry for the man as he was so tightly marked and so heavily relied upon that failure was inevitable. He clearly suffered further when Del Piero was introduced and, despite a great piece of teamwork between them midway through the second half, the two should ideally only work together in a different formation. The Captain should always try to play further up and Diego works best when he’s positioned at the top of Ferrara’s diamond. It wasn’t an earth shattering performance but at least the road to consistency is slowly being paved.
Either way, Juventus do not have much time to ponder their last match as a crucial win is needed against French Champions Bordeaux on Wednesday in the highly anticipated Champions League clash. Should Juventus win then they are through to the next round so Louis van Gaal will be hoping that Laurent Blanc secures at least a point in order to keep Bayern in the running. This should not be such a difficult match for the great Juve. Firstly, the French have already qualified, thus will not be as motivated as their Italian counterparts. Secondly, morale is low in Coach Blanc’s camp as his men were defeated for the second consecutive week in Ligue 1, on Saturday. And finally, the French starlet, Yoann Gourcuff has been ruled out of the game on Wednesday and it’s almost certain that Marouane Chamakh will not play either as he limped off with an injury on Saturday night.
Considering all these factors and the adrenaline rush the Bianconeri players will be feeling, these points should be comfortably achieved. Blanc has often been blamed for his dependence on both Chamakh and Gourcuff so their absence will pain him. Make no mistake though, Juve will find it hard to break through the defensive wall their opponents will build. Defensively, Bordeaux have conceded on average, 0.7 goals per match, whilst they score around 1.5 goals per game. What is interesting to note however, is that most of these goals have come from set-pieces. Therefore, the likes of Momo Sissoko should be careful not to give away any free-kicks as the French will take full advantage of any chance they are handed. Furthermore, it will be important for Giorgio Chiellini to remain disciplined and stay back despite his new found penchant for scoring. He must ensure he defends any possible errors his teammates may make so that the French are not gifted any opportunities in front of the almighty Gigi Buffon. As for the strikers, it will be hard to break through and they will need the help of their fullbacks. Blanc is known to use defensive formations and Diego will almost certainly be double marked, therefore it’s vital to deploy a speedy player such as Sebastian Giovinco to tire out the defenders to allow the Brazilian more space to conjure up magical moves.
Interestingly, Ferrara has asked Claudio Marchisio, Jonathan Zebina and even Hasan Salihamidzic to make the trip so it appears that all three have recovered from their various injuries. As for the strike force, Ferrara only has Amauri and Alessandro Del Piero to pick from and Ciro Immobile has made the trip but is unlikely to feature. Therefore, with no striking backup should an injury occur, it’s highly unlikely that the Coach will opt for a 4-3-1-2 formation, which is a formation that could have perhaps been tested now that Del Piero is back in the picture. Either way, it’s interesting to note that Bordeaux only lost six league matches last year whereas they have already been defeated four times so far this season. Meanwhile Juventus, who played their 20th match under Ferrara on Sunday night, have lost twice in all competitions. Let’s hope Juventus will not let Calcio down and ensure that they qualify to the next round to ensure Serie A remains superior to the Bundesliga.
Juventus Club Focus 2009/10
Great expectations – August 21, 2009
When in Rome – August 28, 2009
The decline and fall of the Roman Empire – September 1, 2009
World Champions – One in, one out, one remembered – September 4, 2009
International week (Georgia-Italy, Italy-Bulgaria)
Children should be seen, not heard – September 7, 2009
Diego lost to injury in victorious Roman repeat – September 15, 2009
The reserves exposed – September 18, 2009
Transforming the formation – September 23, 2009
The cruel blow of lady injustice – September 25, 2009
Haunted by the ghost of last year’s defence – September 29, 2009
We’re meant to be happy with one point? – October 2, 2009
Is it now time to be negative? – October 6, 2009
Ferrara: public enemy #1 – October 9, 2009
Bad or just misunderstood? – October 13, 2009
Let the bitterness commence – October 16, 2009
Oh Ferrara, will you ever learn? – October 20, 2009
Ferrara, thank you for listening – October 23, 2009
Sampdoria will provide the real test – October 27, 2009
Introducing the real Juve – October 30, 2009
Why are we not surprised? – November 3, 2009
The many faces of Juve – November 6, 2009
A team of hyperboles – November 10, 2009
And we’re back – November 20, 2009
Del Piero returns as subordinate players give encouraging displays – November 24, 2009