Spalletti: “The PSV match is the most important one since I’ve been here”

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Earlier this afternoon, Luciano Spalletti held his traditional pre-match press conference at the Suning Training Centre ahead of tomorrow night’s crucial UEFA Champions League group stage match against reigning Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven. Here is what the 59-year-old Tuscan said to the journalists in attendance: “This match is the most important one since I’ve been here and it represents the next step that follows on from Lazio vs. Inter on 20 May. Since I’ve been here, we’ve got the points and put in the performances that we needed. Now, we’re here to play for a spot in the last 16 on the final day of the group stage. Continue reading

Spalletti deserves criticism for handing initiative to Juventus in Derby d’Italia

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“It’s unfortunate that we lost, but we were the team that had the bigger chances during the game. But this is Juventus’s strength: we more than matched them, but they know how to fully capitalise on their opportunities. We didn’t manage to find the back of the net, however. We could have got a better result tonight, but we’ll try to take good heart from the good things we did tonight: on Tuesday evening, we have to win at San Siro in front of our fans, who are always fantastic.” Continue reading

Spalletti: “We did well for long spells, but we’re still too careless at times”

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Luciano Spalletti was understandably frustrated by the manner in which his Inter side were defeated 1-0 by Juventus in tonight’s showpiece Derby d’Italia at Allianz Stadium in Turin. Indeed, the 59-year-old Tuscan made it perfectly clear to the media after the match that he was not satisfied with the way his players handled themselves during the crucial moments, particularly during the second half. Here is what he said: “We did quite well in the game, the team played some great football but we got things wrong at certain times which cannot happen against Juventus. Continue reading

Spalletti: “We’ll face Juventus with courage and determination”

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Ahead of tonight’s Derby d’Italia between Juventus and Inter, Nerazzurri coach Luciano Spalletti held his traditional pre-match press conference yesterday afternoon. The 59-year-old Tuscan was full of praise for the Bianconeri and the way in which they have continually strengthened their squad over the course of the past few years. Here is what he had to say to the gathered journalists at the Suning Training Centre: Continue reading

Why Inter must take a proactive approach against Juventus on Friday night

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“I would absolutely not be content with a point at the Juventus Stadium. We go there to play it without fear, as that must be the mentality of a sportsman.” Those were the words of Inter captain Mauro Icardi in response to a question about the Nerazzurri’s plan of attack ahead of Friday night’s crucial Derby d’Italia against the Bianconeri. Continue reading

Khedira’s extension is latest sign of Allegri’s power at Juventus

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Whether Sami Khedire should have received an extension or not isn’t the subject of this article, but this event show how much Massimiliano Allegri‘s influence has grown at Juventus in the past few years.

When you think of all the skepticism surrounding the Tuscan manager when he was appointed to replace Antonio Conte back in the summer of 2014, it’s quite remarkable to think that you can make a great case that Juventus’ mantra when it comes to the squad has almost shifted from “the player’s will” to “what Allegri wants, Allegri gets”. Not bad for a manager that was greeted by rocks thrown at his car when he arrived at his first training session with the team.

But before we get to Khedira, let’s start with one of the two most shocking transfers in recent memory in Serie A involving the same player…

After Leonardo Bonucci was sent to the stands for an important Champions League match against Porto because of disciplinary reasons, Juventus sided with their manager rather than a player who was supposed to lead their back line after Buffon, Chiellini and Barzagli retired- the bianconeri’s management team didn’t even attempt to dissude Bonucci to stay when he indicated he was ready to move on to Milan mainly because he didn’t get along with his manager.

Once Bonucci realized he made a mistake embracing Milan’s uncertain project, he had to overcome one big hurdle before being able to return to Turin- he had to get back in Max Allegri’s good graces.

The rift between the two had started to heal the previous fall when he was included in the FIFA Football Award ceremony in London, Bonucci in fact told Allegri he was one of the reasons he was selected as one of the two center backs- the drama finally ended this summer after a conversation between the two, once Juventus’ management team felt comfortable Allegri would accept Bonucci back into the squad they pulled the trigger on the deal with Milan that also featured Gonzalo Higuain and Mattia Caldara.

After leading Juventus’ to four consecutive Serie A titles and two Champions League finals, Max Allegri’s reputation had improved so much that he was one of Florentine Perez’ first choices to replace Zinedine Zidane this summer- but Allegri decided to stay in Turin since he felt he had unfinished business.

This development had a significant impact on two players on the bianconeri’s squad who are often vilified by the club’s fans. Mario Mandzukic had received substantial interest from Chinese clubs as well as Manchester United, in addition his position at Juventus seemed even more precarious once the deal for Cristiano Ronaldo was completed.

Many Juventus fans were already dreaming of a trident featuring CR7, Paulo Dybala and Douglas Costa which made Mandzukic almost an after thought. But Max Allegri’s decision to stay in Turin made the Croatian striker once again a key player for the bianconeri, especially after the Tuscan manager had reinvented him as a winger- his new found versatility, in addition to his work rate, make him a very strong asset to Ronaldo as he’s getting acclimated to Serie A.

While Mandzukic‘ strong performances in the World Cup and undeniable “grinta”, a staple of Juventus’ brand, make him a bit more palatable to a segment of Juventus’ fanbase, the same cannot said about Sami Khedira.

In a world where so many rate players based on statistics and watch games on television where positioning and tactical sense are harder to appreciate, Khedira is about as popular as Joffrey in Game of Thrones- but to Max Allegri he’s an indispensable player in his midfield.

While many expected Khedira to leave Turin this summer especially after Emre Can arrived, the opposite happened- he signed an extension making him one of the highest paid players on the team.

If that weren’t enough, Allegri took a clear shot at those who criticize the German international during a recent pre match press conference by saying “Many only see football matches rather than actually watch them, there’s a reason Khedira has been a constant starter with all the managers in his career”- a few days later, Sami Khedira’s extension became official and he was even the team captain for match while Chiellni rested.

While few can argue with Allegri’s tactical acumen, with the match against Valencia being his latest masterpiece, the jury is still out on his player personnel decisions- but one thing is for certain, at the moment what Allegri wants, Allegri gets at Juventus.

 

 

 

 

Mandzukic, da bidone a pedina insostituibile

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Il fascino del calcio è che, nel bene o nel male tutto può cambiare velocemente. Era stato già bollato come un bidone Mario Mandzukic, attaccante croato arrivato un po’ a sorpresa quest’estate dall’Atletico Madrid con l’ingrato compito di sostituire Tevez.  I tifosi  e gli addetti ai lavori storcevano il naso e proprio non si capacitavano come Allegri potesse preferire questo lungagnone e dinoccolato croato alla classe e fantasia di Morata.  Poi come spesso capita, il campo ha messo tutti d’accordo: prima il gol decisivo con il Manchester City in Champions League, poi quello in campionato che ha sbloccato la partita con il Palermo.  I suoi numeri non sono altisonanti, ma  ha il merito di segnare tutti gol importanti: in 15 presenze ha realizzato 6 reti, ma quasi tutti pesanti. Il primo con la Lazio in Supercoppa, poi nell’esordio in Champions League ha bucato il City a Manchester, quindi 1 gol all’Atalanta, 1 all’Empoli,  1 ancora al City, 1 al Palermo. Virtualmente, ha dato alla sua squadra 12 punti e un trofeo, la Supercoppa appunto.

Allegri difficilmente rinuncia a lui apprezzandone in particolare il lavoro di sacrificio per la squadra. Mandzukic non si risparmia mai ed è sempre il primo giocatore a pressare sul portatore di palla avversario. Grazie alla sua fisicità e alla sua generosità è diventato un titolare inamovibile, sono Dybala e Morata a doversi contendere il posto da titolare a suo fianco.  “Mario non è un fuoriclasse – ha detto con grande onestà il tecnico della Juventus –, ma in rosa non abbiamo un altro giocatore con quelle caratteristiche”. Traduzione: quando sta bene, Mandzukic gioca.

A spezzare un’ulteriore lancia in suo favore è intervenuto il suo connazionale Alen Boksic, anche lui dal passato juventino: “Mario è uno che dà tutto per i  compagni, ma ha bisogno della squadra per rendere al massimo. D’altronde stiamo parlando di uno dei migliori colpitori di testa a livello europeo. Se sta bene, può arrivare a 20 reti. Quando è in forma, un gol lo fa sempre. E di solito sono timbri pesanti”.

L’inizio di stagione burrascoso sembra essere alle spalle, Mario come tutta la Juventus ha preso il volo e non vuole più fermarsi.  I tifosi della Juventus hanno iniziato ad apprezzarlo, il brutto anatroccolo si è trasformato in un cigno.

Può la Juventus ambire allo Scudetto?

Per la prima volta in stagione la Juventus ha centrato due vittorie consecutive, grazie ai successi nel derby con il Torino e nella partita fuori casa con l’Empoli. Gli uomini di Allegri sono così risaliti in settima posizione, a meno 9 punti dal duo composto da Inter e Fiorentina che guida la classifica, alimentando le speranze di una rimonta, che fino ad un mese fa sembrava incredibile.  I bianconeri hanno cambiato marcia ad ottobre:  se nelle prime sei partite di campionato la “Vecchia Signora” ha raccolto il misero bottino di 5 punti, nelle successive sei ha conquistato 13 punti, inciampando solo contro il Sassuolo e bloccando sullo 0-0 la capolista Inter.  Il recupero degli infortunati, in primis quello di Khedira e Lichsteiner, la ritrovata verve di Pogba e la maggior incisività di Dybala hanno ridato energie ed entusiasmo ad un gruppo che tutti gli addetti ai lavori davano già per spacciato.  Pur essendo stato rivoluzionata da un mercato estivo controproducente, la rosa juventina rimane una delle più forti e complete in serie A.  Inoltre l’abitudine delle spina dorsale della squadra a competere per le prime posizioni e la voglia di vincere sempre e comunque – il marchio della storia juventina – sono fattori che potrebbero contribuire alla clamorosa rimonta.

Le prossimi 5 partite prima della pausa natalizia saranno determinanti per capire meglio il destino della Juventus a cominciare dalla sfida tra le mura amiche con il Milan a cui seguiranno altri incontri decisivi con la Lazio all’Olimpico e con la Fiorentina alla Juventus Stadium. Se i bianconeri dovessero  collezionare  tre vittorie, allora il discorso Scudetto si farebbe nuovamente interessante e non è escluso che la dirigenza potrebbe regalare ad Allegri un innesto nel mercato di gennaio per dare linfa alla difesa del titolo.  D’altronde, la proprietà è la prima a credere alla rimonta:  ”Da juventino credo tantissimo nello scudetto. Non mi preoccupano le situazioni momentanee, abbiamo vissuto fasi molto difficili in passato, ma la squadra ha sempre reagito con determinazione e cultura vincente. La Juve ha davanti un campionato ancora aperto e interessante, così come la Champions”, ha dichiarato Lapo Elkann. ”Con il Milan può essere la partita della svolta —  ha rincarato la dose Alessio Tacchinardi — la squadra può nutrirsi di quella vittoria per fare un filotto, ma qualcuno deve prendersi la responsabilità. Cuadrado e Dybala devono trascinare la squadra: non basta il 6, ci vogliono prestazioni da 8. Bisogna alzare l’asticella in attacco, solo così si può tornare sul treno Champions”.

Visto l’andamento altalenante delle prime della classe, se la Juventus continuerà  sulla scia delle ultime prestazioni rischia veramente di rientrare nella corsa per il titolo. Crederci non costa nulla.