Fan Zone: Alberto on Baggio, Del Piero, Buffon and more!

As a big Juventus fan, Alberto is known for his extensive collection of Juve kits and for being extremely active in promoting Juve related events and podcasts on social media, specifically Twitter.

You can follow Alberto @alljuvecast and don’t forget to check out @striped_hearts too! Let’s not waste too much time and get to the exciting part with the Q&A below:

1) Who are your THREE all-time favorite Juve players, and why? 

Alessandro Del Piero: He really solidified my love and passion for Juve. He mesmerized me with his play and scored so many captivating goals and was an absolute pleasure to watch. With time he repaid the club with incredible gestures of loyalty- a value that is fading in the modern game but one that I admire a lot.

Roberto Baggio: He is the one who began my love for Juve. An absolutely and incredibly talented player- arguably the best Italian to ever player the game. My dad used to rewind his goals and watch them over and over in disbelief. I remember sitting there with him and then beginning to pretend I was him when I played in the yard.

Gianluigi Buffon: I was over the moon when we signed him and the rest is history. So many matches. So many memories. The absolute best goalkeeper in my opinion and one hell of a man. Another whose loyalty shall never be forgotten, specifically when he could’ve gone anywhere to play. So many incredible saves and his unforgettable reactions to defenders making a stop or our team scoring a goal! All of them are embedded in my brain forever. He is top class. We are incredibly fortunate as Juve fans to witness all three of them wearing our kit.


2) From the current squad, please rank your favorite Juve player by position (DEF, MID & STR), and mention why for each pick?

DEF: My pick would be Chiellini. He still has this presence that is yet to be matched by someone when he is out of our lineup. The team did well while he was out but it’s not the same. We have done great by signing de Ligt as well as Merih Demiral but currently for me in defense Chiellini would be a go to in a crucial match if healthy. I can see Demiral as the closest one today to having the same type of presence and the one defender that forwards will dread having to face.

MID: Going with Bentancur. I really enjoy the way he plays. Head is always on a swivel and he is always looking to advance the play. Has a great engine and gets stuck in tackles too. He has the occasional sloppy fouls leading to cards but he is still very young and I feel his ceiling is quite high and I’m excited about him.

STR: Dybala is my pick. My personal favorite in the forward lineup as amazing as it is to watch Ronaldo in our lineup and to see him scoring goals (still surreal at times), I would still go with Dybala. He is so talented and fun to watch but even more importantly he loves the club and is proud to wear our kit, represent Juve and also the number 10.

3) Now onto a question many would like to hear your answer to: Would you pick Roberto Baggio or Del Piero for your team, and why?

This is killing me… and there is no wrong answer with these two, but if I could have Del Piero pre-injury I would pick him because I feel he would’ve been the one the upcoming greats would always be compared to. If you watch him before that injury- took him a year to recover from- he was a different animal. He had it all. The acceleration, pace, agility and he could kill you with creativity and distribution as well as scoring himself on top being an absolute master of free-kicks. A pre-injury Del Piero at a time when Serie A was stacked with talent, particularly defenders, was an absolute menace and I would take him.


4) Dybala is having a solid season after a disappointing 2018/19 campaign. Where do you see him finishing this season in terms of total goals & assists in the league? And how important is he to Juve’s success?

I think Dybala would finish somewhere around 16 or so goals and close to same or just a bit higher on assists depending on game time. I’m not really sure what he needs to do to get in the starting XI on a regular basis. Dybala in my opinion is highly important to Juve’s success. We know our midfield has been a work in progress so Dybala’s ability to switch play and link up with the midfielders and other attackers is crucial as well as his own ability to finish given the opportunity.

5) Name your all-time favorite Juve match, and why?

My favorite match has to be the second leg of the 2002/03 Champions League semi-final vs Real Madrid. This is one of my absolute favorite Juventus squads ever. That 02/03 squad had it all and could hurt you in so many different ways. That Juve side had to face an incredibly talented Real Madrid side on top of being behind to Real after the first leg.

Still, Juve’s players were not intimidated or going to go down without a fight and as talented and strong as a team the Bianconeri were, I think of how dominant Lippi’s team was on that night. It was still a little bit surprising. I knew my Juve could do it but to dominate them like that was unbelievable. That win in Turin. The goals and the celebrations were iconic and I still get goosebumps watching it 17 years later. Just an absolute must watch for any new Juve fan.

6) Which Juve win is the most important one in your life-time? And why?

For me it is the 1996 Champions League win. Despite how many times we’ve made it to the Champions League finals, you just can’t take it for granted and getting to see Juve win one is something that will stay with me forever.

7) What is Juve’s objective for this season? Is it Serie A, the Champions League or both? 

I would say both and I think it has to be when you are that dominant domestically naturally the next step is Europe.

8) If football resumes, will Juve overturn the result against Lyon? How confident are you?

There’s no doubt in my mind Juve will turn it around. 100% confident we are moving on.

9) Which one team would you like Juve to avoid meeting in the knock-out stages of the Champions League before reaching the Final?

I would like to avoid Bayern Munich. They were playing some electric football before the shut down and they’re scoring a lot of goals. They’ve found their groove and are scoring at will and have Lewandowski on fire. I’d like to avoid them.

10) Which one team would you like Juve to avoid playing if the Bianconeri make it to the final?

Not a single team. The next final Juve make, they are winning it all! Fino alla Fine, Forza Juve!

Can Ancelotti Bring Success to Napoli?

There are so many question marks over Napoli this season after surrendering the league title to Juventus during the latter weeks of the previous campaign. The chief concern is, does Carlo Ancelotti have the necessary tools to bring success to the fans at San Paolo?

Whichever way, Carlo Ancelotti will look to continue Maurizio Sarri’s legacy of bringing exciting attacking football to the people of Naples whiles making them a genuine force again in the league. The Partenopei still boast a chunk of the key components of the squad that almost secured the Serie A title. Notably Senegal center back Kalidu Koulibaly, Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens and Captain Marek Hamsik. These are players of vital importance.

However, the aforementioned players come nowhere near to the players that have brought Ancelloti success in the past. Paulo Maldini, Alexandro Nesta, Segio Ramos, Tiago. Silva, Andrew Pirlo, Frank Lampard, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Andry Shevechenko, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ricardo Kaka, Dida, Iker Casillas and Philp Lahm just to mention a few. One won’t be wrong to say with the exception of Messi, Carlo Ancelotti has coached the best players in the game in the last two decades.

Carlo may possess the ability to lure a few top players to Napoli based on his reputation, but after a reprehensible end to his Bayern Munich reign, many who love and follow him fear coaching a team like Napoli, despite their upswing in performance in the last three years could further lower his status in the game. In terms of history, stature and experience, Napoli lack the cachet of previous clubs such as Milan, Chelsea, PSG and Real Madrid.

The Partenopei rise to prominence in Serie A in recent years, had nothing to do with the acquisition of world class talents, but propelled and earned through Mauriczio Sarri, whose meticulous work ethos enabled his players to show better quality on the ball, redefined their defensive identity while their offensive ratings skyrocketed.

The San Paolo outfit do not have the financial might of Carlo’s previous employers, and with Inter, AC Milan and Roma constantly upgrading owing to the ambitions of their new owners, it’s hard to envisage Napoli challenging for the Scudetto in the not too distant future. It’s no surprise that ahead of the opening fixtures of the season, newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport predicted that both Inter and Milan will leapfrog the Partenopei in the scrap for Champion League position. One wouldn’t be far from right to surmise that this bold call was made taking into account the performance of the teams in the transfer market.

The frustrations of Napoli fans about the club’s lack of ambition in the Mercator were echoed in a recent comment by club president Aurelio De Laurentiis  when he argued that “They want me to spend millions on buying new players, but then they are the ones who buy fake jerseys, make counterfeit merchandise and push through the turnstiles without paying. “So they challenge me too, and I’ll do the same with them.

Carlo Ancelotti issuing out instructions

Carlo Ancelotti issuing out instructions

Despite the talent available to Carlo Ancelotti, Napoli lag behind the likes of Juventus, Inter and AS Roma in terms of depth, and it’s difficult to imagine Ancelotti win the Scuddeto with such a thin squad. The San Paolo fans will miss midfield orchestra Jorginho who has left to Chelsea but it’s also a great opportunity for Polish international Piotr Zieliński to fulfil his potential.

Notwithstanding the win against Lazio at the Olympic last Saturday in their opening Serie A fixture, the manner in which Ciro Immobile turned three Napoli defenders to score that perch of a goal was disappointing, and Ancelotti will hope that such misjudgments do not occur going forward. It was big performances and results like this that made them favorites for a lot of neutral in their last campaign.

For Napoli to pose a threat to Juventus, it’s imperative that Arkadiusz Milik remains fit this season as his height and strength would be crucial in the box against teams like Juventus and Inter. The Polish International could be key in how Ancelotti intends to unhinge his opponents alongside the likes of Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne.

One notable difference in this Napoli team is how Carlo Ancelotti intends to use Marek Hamšík. The skipper seems to have been assigned the role of a deep lying playmaker and despite his limited defensive capabilities the Slovakian distinguished himself against Lazio. But it remains to be seen if that is an ideal plan in the long term. It’s worthy to note that, just like former boss Mauricio Sarri, Carlo is another conservative who hardly rotates his squad. Carlo Ancelotti has got an impressive coaching record, but has he got the right materials to inspire success at San Paolo?



Champions League ambition to derail Juve’s quest for another Scudetto?

It was difficult to tell what Juventus’ main priority was from the beginning of last season. The Champions League or the Scudetto. After falling to Barcelona in the 2015 Champions league final, the Bianconeri won over a lot of neutrals in their fantastic run to the 2017 Champions League final only for another Spanish giant, Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo to make nonsense of their formidable defense in the second half.

The departure of Dani Alves to PSG and Leonardo Bonucci leaving to join arch rival AC Milan added substance to rumors of a half time rumbling that led to their collapse in the second period of that final game. Despite the subsequent denial, it’s important to note that both Bonucci and Alves mounted the FIFPro XI podium during the FIFA Best Men’s Player Award that same year. So that begs the question as to why a club of Juventus’s stature will allow two of their best defender in that period to move on.

Symptoms of that effect was quite clear from the beginning of last season as Juventus struggled defensively against teams such as Sampdoria and Udinese. The Bianconeri were leaking goals at the wrong place at the wrong time, while the attack lacked the surging runs, tailor made crosses and quality passes that Dani Alves provided the season before. During such turbulent moments, Mauricio Sarri was creating something that Pep Guardiola will later describe as the best team he has ever faced in the game. Match after match, Napoli put together what looked like the final pieces of what Sarri was building in his three years’ stint at Naples. Suddenly, the narrative of a championship team had turned towards the men in the light blue stripes- Napoli.

But it was never meant to be for Napoli. Juventus clawed back to snatch victories from the jaws of defeat with two season defining away games against Lazio at the Olimpico and Inter at the San Siro in the latter weeks of the season. The manner of those victories was not only a testimony to the Old Lady’s strength and character but a failure on the part of the rest to put a stop to the Bianconeri’s stranglehold on the Italian league.

That was the Juventus story last season. This season, they’ve gone up a notch.

No team in Serie A can rival the Bianconeri’s depth, talent and experience. Evidence of that has been displayed in the six years that they’ve won the Scudetto in succession. Till now, the most significant news in Turin and Italy is the arrival of Ronaldo. The former Real Madrid forward and current FIFA Best Player has been secured to boost the Old Lady’s chances of landing their third elusive Champions League trophy.

After winning seven Scudetti in a row it has become mundane to talk about another Serie A title. Juventus are looking to stretch their dominance onto the European stage, but it’s not a given, and they risk losing their domestic form. Title rivals Napoli have signed former AC Milan and Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti after Mauricio Sarri agreed to a move to manage Chelsea. Despite losing Sarri and playmaker Jorginho to a foreign club, it will be foolhardy to ignore what Ancelotti can eke out of this Napoli squad. They still retain their core with Kalidou Koulibaly, Allan, Marek Hamsik, Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens in their ranks.

Ancelotti’s fatherly figure helps in creating a family environment that allows his players to bond and thrive once they assimilate his concepts. Though he’s been out of Italy for past nine years, the former Bayern Munich coach still retains a degree of knowledge about the nature of the league and its nuances.

The team that many should be looking to threaten Juventus for the Scudetto this season is Luciano Spalletti’s Inter. The Nerazzurri have made some significant acquisitions this transfer window and will be aiming for the league title. The signing of Radja Nainggolan from Roma and Kwadwo Asamoah from Juventus means Inter Milan have added more steel and experience to their spine. The possession of a relatively young and lethal Mauro Icardi is still something to smile about. Inter will also have a crack at the Champions league, but it is a much tougher asking and it will be a prudent use of their resources to channel their energy into securing the Scudetto.

Ronaldo’s evolution from a winger into a clinical striker in the box means goals will be in ample supply for the Old Ladies, however given the fact that the number seven man is at the wrong side of age, a decline in skill set is to be expected. Coupled with Bonucci’s return, Juventus will probably the strongest team in Europe, but that may derail their chances of another Serie A title.

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