Will Sarri’s first success at Juventus come in the Champions League?

Maurizio Sarri has suffered cup disappointment once again as Juventus were beaten in the Coppa Italia final by Napoli on penalties around a week.

Juve were favorites among the betting firms going into that tie at the Stadio Olimpico where it was Sarri’s former side Napoli who held their nerve better in the penalty shootout. The defeat in Rome marks the second straight season that Sarri has lost a cup competition in the final on penalties. In the 2018/19 campaign, his Chelsea side were beaten by Manchester City at Wembley by the same outcome.

Although the betting suggests Sarri’s best chance of silverware this season may come in Serie A, where Juve are locked in a battle with Lazio for the title, the Italian club could still win the Champions League.

Juventus 16/1 To Win Champions League

Sarri’s side are 16/1 to win the Champions League this season. If he were able to deliver Europe’s premier trophy, it would be an impressive opening campaign at the Old Lady.

Juventus have not won the Champions League since they were successful in 1996, beating Ajax in the final that year in Rome. They did reach the final recently in 2015 and 2017, losing 3-1 to Barcelona and 4-1 to Real Madrid respectively.

The Turin-based club’s odds will be much shorter if they are able to overcome Lyon in their last 16 tie in the competition. Juventus trail 1-0 after the opening leg in Lyon. Without an away goal at the Groupama Stadium, they have a lot of work to do when the two sides meet again.

Bayern Munich and Manchester City top the betting for European crown

Bayern Munich are the 11/4 favourites in the Champions League outright betting at this stage of the tournament. They recently recorded their eighth consecutive Bundesliga title so they can fully concentrate on Europe now.

The German club lead Chelsea 3-0 following the opening leg of their last 16 fixture at Stamford Bridge. Barring a huge comeback from the English side, they should reach the quarter-finals.

After a slow start this season, Bayern have been in excellent form in the second half of the campaign. Robert Lewandowski is the top scorer in the Champions League this season with 11 goals to his name.

Manchester City are next best in the betting for the trophy at 3/1. They are bidding for their maiden Champions League win in what may be their last season in Europe for two years unless they overturn their ban from UEFA. The English champions have Premier League odds available of 5/6 to go the rest of the season unbeaten as they have red-hot form since the return of the Premier League.

Guardiola won Europe’s main competition twice when he was in charge of Barcelona. He was hired by the English club to try and deliver the most prestigious trophy in European football.

UEFA have announced that from the quarter-finals onwards this year’s competition will take place in Lisbon in August. The final has been scheduled for the 23rd of August.

Fan Zone: Enrico returns to discuss Juventus transfer targets

Enrico Passarella is back to discuss Juventus but this time the focus is on the transfer market and the club’s potential targets. Enrico is well versed in Italian football and he methodically covers Calcio, in particular from the fantasy football angle. You can follow him on social media here.

Feel free to discuss the names linked with a transfer to the Bianconeri as well as other news pertaining to Juve with both Enrico and Rami Soufi. Check below for Enrico’s preferred choice among the summer targets (plus the names linked) as well as his take on who may turn out to be the club’s bargain signing.

1) Would you rather sign Erling Haaland or Mauro Icardi? How about Jorginho, Houssem Aouar or Sergej Milinkovic-Savic? Achraf Hakimi or Ricardo Pereira? Who would you pick from all of them?

Haaland just looks to me as a more complete player than Icardi and he is also much younger. He appears to be the perfect modern striker. Icardi would likely score a lot for Juve, but I never particularly liked him or his style of play to be honest.

Among the midfielders, while Jorginho would make most sense under coach Sarri, my choice is Sergej Milinkovic-Savic who is the type of player that is currently missing at the club. It would also weaken a direct opponent and reaffirm the recent era’s tradition of acquiring the best players in Italy.

For the right-back position, I have been impressed with Hakimi when watching BVB, so I would pick him over Pereira. However, for some reason, I sense the Leicester player would likely work out better in Italy. He is still working hard to recover from a serious injury back in March 2020, but is expected to be ready for the start of the new season- whether in England’s Premier League or in a different league.

If I am to pick just one then I like Haaland the most as Juve definitely missed out when they had a chance to get him for relatively cheap although signing a striker was not really a priority in January and it would have been difficult to integrate him.

2) Juve built a reputation signing players for free or for a bargain. Who is potentially the next bargain signing by Juve?

I can see Juve’s management making a run on at one of the PSG fullbacks who are on expiring contracts, meaning Thomas Meunier or Layvin Kurzawa or perhaps both.

3) Do you rate Gabriel Jesus? His stats are decent despite Pep Guardiola using him as a substitute in most games. Would you sign Jesus or Harry Kane if you’re in charge

Gabriel Jesus has ton of potential- unfortunately for him he has Sergio Kun Aguero ahead of him. He has everything in place to fully blossom once he becomes the unquestioned center-piece of the attack, either at Manchester City or elsewhere.

No doubt though, I would sign Harry Kane, who, with his physical attributes and skill-set, would have an easier time adapting to Serie A. I consider him one of the best all-around strikers. Having said all that, I do not see Juve pulling off such a mammoth transfer this summer.

Fan Zone: Enrico covers many Juventus topics including legends Buffon & Del Piero

In the latest Q&A, we welcome Enrico Passarella, a writer who covers diligently the Italian league, in particular fantasy football and transfer news. If you want the latest injury news as well as other updates regarding Serie A then you should give Enrico a follow on Twitter @Guardalinee. You will not regret it.

Check out the Q&A’s first segment below and read what Enrico has to say about legends such as Andrea Pirlo, Gianluigi Buffon and others. Feel free to reach out to both Enrico and @RamiSoufi on their respective Twitter account. You should scroll below and look for Enrico’s take on Juve’s all-time best player!

1) Name your 3 favorite Juve players, and tell us why?

Gianluigi Buffon: This is a particularly easy one. I was a goalkeeper when I was a kid and that plays a huge role. It is very simple, I always looked up to him and felt a strong
connection because of playing in a similar position on the field despite of course the gap in levels.

Alessandro Del Piero: This is another simple choice. He is an undisputed icon for all things Juventus. He is one of those star players who brought endless joy to the Juve fan base.

Giorgio Chiellini: I always loved his grit and charisma. I absolutely admired the way he went toe-to-toe with the best opponents while still setting the tone for the whole squad, particularly in key matches.

2) From the current squad, list your favorite players per position & state why? 

Among defenders, I am going with Chiellini again for the reasons I just mentioned a short while ago. I feel confident Matthijs de Ligt can and will fill the void once the captain retires.

In midfield, Rodrigo Bentancur is my choice. Juve can always count on his contribution, including his fair share of yellow cards, and he has shown exponential growth since joining the club. He already has about 30 caps for Uruguay.

In attack, it must be Paulo Dybala. He is truly a joy to watch when he is able to express himself and when he is in good form. I would add that he is a true difference-maker and I strongly believe he can still improve to get to another level.

3) Name the most important Juve triumph in your lifetime, and explain why?

The first Scudetto under Antonio Conte back in 2011 because it meant Juve were finally back where they belong after several difficult years. It was also an incredible achievement as the squad was inferior when compared to other title contenders. At the end, the players pulled it off, with much of it thanks to their drive and perseverance.

4) Choose your favorite Juve match. Why?

No doubt when talking about this one. It is Juventus-Real Madrid in the semifinals of the Champions League in 2003 with the Bianconeri winning 3-1. Juve performed a remarkable comeback against a legendary team and the best Bianconeri players, Del Piero, David Trezeguet and Pavel Nedved scored while our number one Buffon saved a penalty. So all the key players from that squad chipped in on that memorable night. I cannot stress enough how it was a truly magical night.

5) Choose two from Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio, Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal for your midfield, and state why?

I am definitely picking Pirlo and Vidal -both unique contributors. There is really nobody like Pirlo, who remains unmatched for the way he was able to pull the strings and dictate the tempo with his class and vision. Vidal was an animal in his prime, he embodied the fighting spirit of the club and it was a gut punch when he decided to leave.

6) What are Juve’s weaknesses? Many focus on the midfield while some say it is the lack of creativity when Dybala is not playing. Your thoughts?

The current fullbacks are not great but the biggest issue lies in the midfield- an area that is too dependent on Miralem Pjanic from a creative standpoint. To make matters worse,  Pjanic has been subpar this year, and does not provide much scoring in any case.

Summer signings Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot were supposed to fix that, but the former has been too injury prone and the latter has yet to really settle in. It is another cautionary tale when it comes to signing free players as it can backfire too. I can see a major investment coming in to fill the gaps in midfield if Juve plan to compete regularly in Europe.

7) Who is the best player to ever wear the Juve shirt?

In the modern era I would confidently say a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. His achievements speak louder than all the words of praise any of us can give. In the past, I’d single out Michel Platini. The Frenchman achieved a lot on both the individual and team level while with the Bianconeri. Still, Buffon’s standing in the history of the sport should not be underestimated so his is a name we must always keep in mind. I am not going to single out one name, so I would let my fellow Juventini ponder on this point.

Alberto and the Striped Hearts Apparel: the story with a good cause behind it

At www.eurofantasyleague.com (EFL) we put emphasis on not only providing professional, prompt and quality customer service, but also trying to spread word, promote and contribute to beneficial projects to society. One such good cause has been initiated by Alberto who can be reached @AllJuveCast and who has previously discussed in brief some of his project’s key themes with Rami Soufi. Previously, Alberto participated in an engaging and interesting Q&A back in April which you can check out here.

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The cause is linked to Italian giants Juventus and is the fruit of Alberto’s love, labor and ideas. While this may sound like a straightforward purchase of shirts having various Bianconeri legends on them, the reality says otherwise. It is a much more involved process with Alberto involving Juve supporters in picking which designs go to production and become the beloved shirts now being proudly worn by many Juventini.

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The biggest positive though is the greater good behind this project. Not only does Alberto show his love and support for his favorite club by creating and promoting designs displaying legends of the Bianconeri but he also donates the proceeds to charities of his choosing.

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Again, we cannot speak high enough about Alberto’s objective and efforts. Simply visit Striped Hearts Apparel and contact him to pick the designs you like. For a moment, this appears as if it works almost exclusively for Juve fans yet maybe some of the Azzurri fans would like to see their heroes such as Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo as well as some of the other legends who represented both Juve and Italy.

A big salute to Alberto! We encourage similar projects with a good cause and a positive framework. Keep going Alberto because those with the right attitude and noble objectives will most likely end up with the desired outcome. Forza Alberto!

Alberto returns to talk about his latest project born out of his love for Juventus

There is no doubt Alberto is a massive Juventus fan yet that is not what makes him a popular and well-loved person. It was a pleasure to have him in a two-part Q&A back in April 2020. In fact, just over a month ago Alberto discussed in an initial Q&A Juve legends from Roberto Baggio to Alessandro Del Piero and Gianluigi Buffon.

Alberto is also involved heavily on Twitter and social media in general. You can follow him on his Twitter handle @AllJuveCast. He not only focuses on promoting Juve and sharing his stories as well as trying to give a voice to other Bianconeri fans but he also has great giveaways including historic Juve kits from his tremendous collection.

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In recent times, Alberto has taken his love for the Bianconeri a few steps further and mixed that passion for the club with his thoughtfulness and generosity. Alberto has helped design a plethora of shirts- obviously with a strong Bianconeri theme. When asked about his newest project, Alberto happily took time from his busy schedule to briefly discuss @Striped_Hearts and what the project stands for.

Even the designs which finally make it to the production phase are chosen carefully and are made available to the public- well, Juve fans to be specific- after a nod of approval from the Juve faithful. In Alberto’s own words: “the designs are voted for by Juve fans worldwide and only the most popular ones are then taken to production.”

This highlights what kind of person Alberto is. He is not only loyal to the club and a very ardent supporter, but he is also heavily involved in spreading word and sharing fabulous stories about the Bianconeri. However, as great as Alberto’s work has been to give a vote to the Juve supporters who at times feel disengaged or left out, his finest work is the fact this project is also a for a good cause on top of being a labor of love.

Alberto mentions that: “Proceeds of all sales go to a rotating carousel of charities I support as well,” and this in itself highlights his giving nature and his willingness not only to give the time and effort to further promote Juve and other club-related aspects but also a strong desire to help in every possible way. Politicians carry an agenda, Alberto carries the Bianconeri colors in his heart but also seeks to do good in the name of the club he loves.

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Fan Zone: Giuseppe is back with focus on Juve’s transfers & European chances

Giuseppe Bognanni is back for the second segment of the Q&A discussing everything Juventus from club legends in the previous part to the Bianconeri’s transfer targets as well as European dream in the section below.  Feel free to share your opinion and ask us any questions you may have on Juve’s potential European run as well as the upcoming transfer campaign by connecting with us on Twitter @RamiSoufi and @BognanniG.

1) Juve built a reputation signing players for free. Who could be the next bargain signing?

How about Paul Pogba in July 2021? That’ll be a funny scenario. A full circle for a player Juve signed for free (only a small fee was paid per rules) several years ago. Just imagine Juve signing Pogba for free twice and both times from Manchester United! That would be hilarious!

Another possible name could be PSG’s Thomas Meunier. He is a useful player since the right-back sport is a weak one. No doubt Juan Cuadrado has given his best as a makeshift right-back but still it should be one of Juve’s priorities this summer transfer campaign to sign a full-back.

2) Do you rate Gabriel Jesus? He has decent stats despite mostly being used as a substitute. Would you sign Jesus or prefer to pick Harry Kane?  

Both are quality players. It is difficult to choose between them as their game is very different. They bring different qualities to a team. With Douglas Costa leaving or consistently injured, we need to add a player who has the skills and technique to create something out of nothing. I think Gabriel would be a nice addition.

3) What’s your take on BVB’s Erling Haaland? Would you sign Haaland, or Mauro Icardi? Would you sign Barcelona’s Arthur or Lazio’s Milinkovic-Savic? And who’d you pick from BVB’s Achraf Hakimi and Leicester’s Ricardo Pereira? 

I wanted Juve to sign Icardi before they signed Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli. That’s how much I wanted Mauro at Juve as I believe the guy is strong, still young and a proven scorer. Still, Haaland is an upgrade on Icardi with at least 8 years more in the game than the current PSG striker. I go with the young BVB man.

For Juve’s midfield, I would love to see Pogba, Rodrigo Bentancur and Arthur holding the fort and combining together. If this is not possible then I’d choose Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic fondly known as SMS. He knows Serie A, is just 25-years-old and still has tremendous potential. So I am going with SMS.

For the right-back spot, I think it’s impossible at the moment but I’d go with BVB’s Hakimi- he is reportedly heading back to Real Madrid. If I must pick one position to improve then considering Higuain is leaving, we need a true 9. Out of the 6 players discussed above, and this is going to shock many since Juve’s midfield is weak but I would still invest in Haaland.

4) Will Juve overturn the result against Lyon? How confident are you?

Before the stop I was not confident at all. The Lyon game was awful and despite the quality game win against Inter, I’m not sure Juve was mentally strong enough to win.

Today it’s difficult to predict any result. France stopped Ligue 1 what means Lyon will not play any official game before the return match against Juve. It is hard to predict.

5) One team you want Juve to avoid meeting in the knock-out stages of the Champions League?

Juve and the Champions League is a crazy love-hate relationship. Juve were able to beat Barcelona and Real Madrid in the knock-outs in the past few years but not in the final! Something about playing a single-match to determine the trophy winner I guess.

Juve lost to a young Ajax team last season- that’s how unpredictable this Bianconeri side is. I would for sure like to avoid Atalanta. They know Juve, they are fast and have nothing to lose. Also, it would pain me a lot to eliminate them before the final because they have been this season’s true Cinderella story in the Europe.

6) Which team would you like Juve to avoid playing in the Champions League final?

Juve have lost 7 out of 9 finals. It’s not the opponent that scares me. It’s Juve and the mental barrier the squad must overcome- not just the psychological aspect for the current players but also the history of the club failing in one final after another. It’ll depend on how we enter the pitch. If we are confident enough we can beat any opponent.

Fan Zone: Elio returns to talk Juve in Europe, coaches and CR7

Elio Salerno is back for the second segment of the Q&A. In the initial Q&A, Elio discussed club legends Pavel Nedved and Alessandro Del Piero as well as current icons Gianluigi Buffon and Giorgio Chiellini.

This time around the focus is on the Champions League as well as Juve’s coaches and Cristiano Ronaldo. As we have witnessed from the first Q&A and earlier exchanges, Elio is generous with his feedback and he talks in detail about his beloved Juventus. Will this be the season Juve win the Champions League? And has Cristiano Ronaldo impressed enough at Juve? Elio discusses all the points above and more in the sections below…

1) If European competition returns, will Juve overturn the result against Lyon? How confident are you?

Now that French football has been suspended I guess it is hard to say how this will play out. If football does return, will Lyon play the game? Will they be in a position to? I think so much has changed between the first leg and now. You would have to say Juve would do it because simply put they have to.

2) One team you’d like Juve to avoid meeting in the Knock-out stages of the Champions League?

I would have said Liverpool but they are out so I’d certainly go with Bayern Munich and perhaps PSG because of their pace going forward. They both appear to have the proper balance in their starting lineup, particularly the Germans. Aside from that, I do not think there is a standout candidate and again it will come down to circumstances- what team is in the best condition at the right moment.

3) Do you believe Juve will win the Champions League if they make the final?

Once they get there, of course they can win it. We all know Juve’s record in the finals. We have reason to be critical of their final performances in years prior to the most recent two. Reality is they were beaten by superior teams in 2015 and 2017- there weren’t any teams at the level of the Barcelona and Real Madrid teams at the time and even today.

4)  If the fee, club rivalries, availability etc are not an issue, who’s the one player you’d like Juve to sign?

What a question! I am torn between my personal preference for central midfield players like Frenkie de Jong and Toni Kroos. However, I would have to go with Kylian Mbappe. He is a phenomenon, a frightening match winner who still has years to come at the top of the game.

5)  What do you make of Ronaldo’s career at Juve so far?

If we say anything other than great then we are being too picky. It is easy to look at his transfer fee and wages etc. I expect the most but the reality is not even Ronaldo can make up for the gaps in this team. He has delivered on every front- on and off the pitch he has given the club what they need. There can be no complaints about CR7, it is a pleasure to watch him wearing the Bianconeri shirt.

6) Would you pick Antonio Conte, Max Allegri or Maurizio Sarri as coach, and why?

I would pick Mister Allegri every day, he is the complete package. He is the ideal representative for a football club, professional in his manner and an intelligent communicator.

As a coach he is adaptable, a winner and knows how to get the best out of a group, even if there are significant changes from year to year. He was unfairly criticized by many Juve fans, but he did what he had to do to win despite fundamental pieces being taken away from his squad.

In this first year at Juve, with a near complete team they played good football- enjoyable to watch and beyond that season he never had that luxury again. Instead, he was forced to adapt, yet still maintained a competitive edge across all competitions. He was an excellent coach.

7)  Who is your captain and his backup from among Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Paulo Dybala, Sami Khedira and Miralem Pjanic and why?

Chiellini is the captain and should remain the captain as I mentioned previously he is the ideal person and player to lead the squad. Next should be Dybala, I think too much has happened with Bonucci for him to have that privilege while Dybala has invested himself in the club, wants to be a Juventino and I think this resonates with the fans.

8)  Who is the best foreigner to ever play for Juve?

I would have to go again with Nedved for all the reasons I mentioned before. He dedicated many years to Juve and still has a special place and an important role at the club.

If we are talking all-time, then it is hard for me to assess the likes of Omar Sivori, Michel Platini & of course John Charles. I was never privileged enough to experience any of those legends and without having that connection with them I couldn’t separate them.

Fan Zone: Elio on Nedved, Pirlo, Marchisio and of course Del Piero!

In the latest Q&A, Elio Salerno- a football writer and contributor- discusses his love affair with Italy’s Old Lady, Juventus. Elio talks in detail about legends such as Alessandro Del Piero and Pavel Nedved as well as current stars like fan favorite Paulo Dybala.

Some of his answers may surprise you but Elio methodically proceeds to explain why he made certain choices- particularly that of Blaise Matuidi. Below is the first part of the Q&A:

1) Name your 3 all-time favorite Juve players, and why?

Alessandro Del Piero – This is the obvious answer for me. Del Piero is probably the name the majority of Juve fans would choose. Watching him when I was a young boy inspired me. He is the reason I support Juve. The person and the player were truly iconic and one of a kind. Obviously, the career he had also speaks for itself.

Gianluigi Buffon – This was a close call between Giorgio Chiellini and Buffon. I really cannot separate them. However, Buffon’s longevity and ability to play through different eras of the game while staying in the conversation as one of the world’s best goalkeepers sets him apart. It is an incredible achievement. He has brought so many qualities to the club over the years on and off the pitch. He has collected a large number of trophies and showed unquestionable loyalty even during the darkest of times.

Pavel Nedved – What a player! The level of intensity and ferocity at which Nedved played were admirable. He was a winner and a fighter but also had boundless quality with not one but both feet. A creator and scorer of wonderful goals, he is a timeless player & would be at home in the modern game. The Bianconeri could do with a player of his versatility now.

2) From the current squad, name your favorite Juve player by position (DEF/MID/ATT).

DEF: Chiellini – The captain, the leader and the squad’s foundation. It is a pleasure to watch the passion he defends with. The enjoyment he takes out of thwarting attacks puts a smile on your face. As a fan, he is the example you want at the top of your squad. I say enjoy him before he retires.

MID:  Blaise Matuidi – It is not easy to pick a midfield player out of the current group but, and surprisingly so, I am going with Blaise Matuidi. I am sure very, very few fans would pick him. On face value, Blaise isn’t the type of player I’d enjoy watching. I would not even choose to have him on my team but you cannot belittle what he does and what he brings to the table. Yes he has the obvious flaws but he is arguably the only Juve midfielder who offers consistency- he isn’t going to let you down and at the moment it is undeniable that Juve are better when he is in the starting lineup.

ATT: Paulo Dybala – La Joya has been a favorite of mine from the day he arrived. Yes he has had his problems in recent seasons but his love for Juve is apparent and it is a trait we all want from our number 10. Dybala’s name in the Starting XI always bring joy to my heart. The way he controls the ball so smoothly and can change the course of a game in one magical moment is the reason why we watch football. I hope Juve can build a more complete team because Dybala has more to bring.

3) Name Juve’s most important moment in your lifetime, and why?

It has to be the first Scudetto of the current historic run- it came under Antonio Conte. After everything that happened and everything that has followed this was a pivotal moment and a welcome, much needed success. It felt like the beginning of something special and it has turned out to be the case.

4) Pick your favorite Juve match, and why?

The return leg of the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid in 2003. Everything about that night was perfectly scripted except for the Nedved yellow card!!! Where to start? The Delle Alpi was on fire. That Juve team, the Del Piero & Nedved goals and of course the Buffon penalty save on Luis Figo’s attempt. The game had it all.

5) Pick two from Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba, and Vidal for your midfield, and why?

It has to be Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio. Pirlo is unique, there won’t be another Pirlo. To watch him in full flight is football poetry. As for Marchisio, aside from what he means to Juventus and the fans, he was an underrated and superb midfield player. He was the glue in almost any midfield set-up, his versatility and ability to adapt allowed for others to shine and he was a huge asset to the coaches and the team.

6) What are Juve’s weaknesses? Is it the right-back position or the midfield which is under constant scrutiny? 

The glaring weakness is in midfield and it has been since 2015. It is the primary area that needs addressing and needs an injection of youth and energy. Juve need midfielders who have a more complete game combined with strong physical characteristics.

Beyond that, do the full back areas need an upgrade? Yes but it isn’t a significant problem and there aren’t many great or available full backs in Europe so I would not waste time in that area unless it is to sell one who is already in the squad.

I also would add that Sarri must decide what formation he will be using going forward. Since it is obvious Sarri favors 4-3-3, I would say a creative attacker/wide player would be a welcome & important addition. A fit Douglas Costa is that player, but we all know his injury problems.

Juve must also sign a versatile striker to replace Gonzalo Higuain- someone such as Timo Werner who can play wide or centrally. Werner would allow room for Ronaldo to be Ronaldo.

7) Who is in your opinion the best player to ever wear the Juve shirt?

It is really tough for me not to say Del Piero. I can only comment on players that I have been fortunate enough to watch in my lifetime & Del Piero succeeded in every way. He has the trophies and the stats to back this up. He was a complete forward, scoring & creating goals, able to link up the game and take on defenders with a sharp turn or a piece of skill. Del Piero was strong physically and difficult to dispossess and he gave you a chance to win whenever he was on the pitch.

8) Who is the one player you would sign from Erling Haaland (STR), Arthur (MID) and Achraf Hakimi (DEF)?

That’s a tough choice. I don’t particularly have a strong feeling towards any of the three names. I would favor Haaland for the simple reason he is a player set to take Europe by storm. He has everything you would want from a modern center-forward and more importantly he knows how to find the net.

9) Juve built a strong reputation signing free agents. Who will be Juve’s next bargain signing?

I feel this is something Juve should move away from unless it really is a deal they cannot afford to pass up. These free players come with a heavy wage, older age and are not always a big enough improvement to really help the team. I would like to see Juve invest more in Italian youngsters but keep them, perhaps even allow room for players currently at the club such as Hans Caviglia, Nicolo Fagioli and Manolo Portanova.

10) What do you make of Mauro Icardi? His stats are decent despite being mostly used as a substitute. Would you sign Icardi, Gabriel Jesus or Harry Kane

I would go with Gabriel Jesus, for the reason I mentioned earlier with regards to versatility, a player that is not a typical 9 and can allow for Ronaldo to express himself. Harry Kane is a fantastic player, arguably the best in his role but similar to Icardi. I don’t see them at Juve whilst CR7 is still on the books- it just doesn’t make sense to me.

Fan Zone: Gregory returns to discuss Juve in Europe, Higuain, Tonali & more

Gregory Caltabanis- who covers European football and is part of the team @FantaCalcioGame- is back with the second part of our Q&A! This time Gregory focuses on the Champions League but also talks about potential transfers and Juve’s reputation as a top destination for free agents (this June- or whenever FIFA/UEFA decide the contracts ending in June 2020 will now end after the pandemic).

Let us get straight to the answers by Gregory!

1) Juve have a great reputation signing players for free or at a bargain. Who is the candidate to be the next Juve bargain?

Tough to say. I’m not a huge fan of the players available on a free transfer this summer, but I wouldn’t be against making a move for Thomas Meunier. We need a right-back and he would come free. I recently saw Bayern Munich signed Charles Aranguiz, which I think will be the Bosman move of the summer.

Beyond that, bringing back Rolando Mandragora could be cost-efficient. I also like Bologna’s young prospects such as Jerdy Schouten, Nicolas Dominguez and Andreas Skov Olsen. Riccardo Orsolini is definitely one to keep an eye on, but I don’t think he would come cheap.

2) Would you rather sign Erling Haaland (striker), Sandro Tonali (MID) or Achraf Hakimi (DEF)? Who is your choice and why?

If I must pick one, then I would have to go with Tonali. If we don’t sign him and he joins a rival, I get the feeling we’ll regret it for the next ten years. He is exactly what we’re missing in the midfield. Eventually, I’d love for us to sign Haaland, but he’s not a priority right now as there are plenty of strikers we can sign.

Hakimi is an interesting one as well, but I see him returning to Real Madrid this summer or next. If I had to throw in another name for the right back spot, I would go for Leicester’s Ricardo Pereira.

3) Harry Kane’s stats are decent despite being sidelined due to injury. Would you be for signing Kane?

He’s definitely a top ten striker in the world right now, but I would stay away from him if I were Juve. I just don’t think he’s a good fit with the current roster. His scoring record is very impressive, but I feel like he’s lost a step over the past few years. Considering the price tag he would command, I would look elsewhere.

4) Do you believe Higuain has proven he’s worth the 90m fee paid to sign him?

Higuain has given Juve two very good seasons and has scored some important goals, but I can’t help but feel 90M was a bit excessive. That being said, he was playing for a direct competitor and the only way we would have signed him was by triggering his release clause. Ultimately, we didn’t win a Champions League with him, but he’s been integral to our domestic success. Bit of a mixed bag.

5) If European competition returns, will Juve overcome Lyon? How confident are you?

100%. The first leg against them was our worst performance of the season, but I’m absolutely confident we will overturn this narrow deficit. All we need is one goal and the whole tie will change. We pulled off a bigger comeback against Atletico last season and I don’t see why we can’t repeat the feat against a Lyon team without Memphis Depay.

6) One team you’d like Juve to avoid meeting in the Champions League?

It may come as a surprise but Red Bull Leipzig. The Germans press intensely and are incredibly difficult to break down. While I think we would beat them over two legs, we match up pretty poorly against their style of play and would have difficulty keeping up with the pace. They’re deadly on the counter and I fear Werner could hurt us.

7) One team you’d like Juve to avoid playing in the Champions League final?

Right now it has to be Bayern Munich. Before play was suspended, they were in incredible form and looked like the Bayern of old. With their European pedigree and deep midfield options, I get the feeling they’re favorites to win it all.

Atletico is another interesting one. We got the better of them this season, but I wouldn’t want to play against a Simeone-led side in a one-off final. We all saw how they eliminated Liverpool and could be extremely dangerous if play resumes.

Fan Zone: Gregory on Nedved, Buffon, Dybala & more Juve talk

Gregory Caltabanis is an established writer and reporter who covers extensively European football, but what matters for the purposes of this Q&A is Gregory’s unfaltering allegiance to Italian giants Juventus.

Gregory is part of the @FantaCalcioGame team as well! They run the most popular Fantasy Serie A Game, but for now let’s go straight to the Q&A with Gregory offering lots of interesting takes on legends such as Pavel Nedved and Gianluigi Buffon.

1) Who are your 3 all-time favorite Juve players (ranked by preference) and why?

Pavel Nedved: My all-time favorite Juve player is undoubtedly Nedved. One of the first games I saw as a kid was Juve against Milan in 2005 and all I remember seeing was a player with blonde locks run effortlessly down the left wing. Of course, it was Nedved. From that point forward, I always watched Juve and became a fan. The rest is history.

Gianluigi Buffon: After Nedved, I would have to say it’s Buffon. Buffon has been with the team since I’ve followed them and is the main reason I’m a goalkeeper to this day. Beyond saving countless goals, he’s a class act both on and off the field. I’ll never forget his save on Zidane’s header in 2006.

Paulo Dybala: The last one is a bit difficult, but I have to go with Dybala. I know he’s not up there yet with Alessandro Del Piero and other legends, but Dybala is one of the reasons I’m still passionate about the team today. He’s always respected the shirt and is arguably the first worthy number 10 we’ve had since Del Piero. I hope he stays with Juve for the long haul.

2) From active players, pick your favorite Juve player by position: one each from defense, midfield and attack. Why did you pick them?

DEF: My favorite defender is 100% Merih Demiral (Gregory says it emphatically!). Since he’s joined, I always thought he would be very important for our success. It’s a shame the serious injury halted his progress, but I’m confident he’ll come back stronger. Demiral embodies everything that Juve should seek in a player. He’s confident, plays with an edge and has that fighting spirit. I’ll be ordering my Demiral jersey very soon.

MID: It has to be Rodrigo Bentancur. I’ve had my doubts about him over the years, but he’s stepped up this season and looks to be evolving into an important player for us. Like Demiral, he plays with an edge to his game which I feel we lack sometimes. I’m looking forward to seeing him make further progress when play hopefully resumes.

STR: It’s an obvious one- Paulo Dybala. You really get the sense that he loves Juve and fights for the shirt every time he steps onto the pitch. It goes without saying, but his left foot is incredible. It’s just amazing to watch him play. Now, if only Fabio Paratici shared the same opinion, we’d be better off.

3) Your choice for most important Juve victory in your lifetime? Why?

Without a doubt, when we knocked out Real Madrid 3-2 on aggregate in 2015. While the win against Inter in 2018 was huge, for me the Real result announced Juve’s return on the world stage and showed the rest of Europe “we are back.” After all, we just took out Real Madrid. The final didn’t go our way, but I can’t recall a win I’ve celebrated more.

4) Choose your all-time favorite Juve match, and why?

Against Inter and on their home turf just over two years ago. At times, it felt like the game and the title were slipping away but as soon as Dybala stepped onto the pitch, it changed everything. I’ll never forget Gonzalo Higuain’s goal to complete the comeback. Made it that much sweeter that it was against Inter at the San Siro.

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5) Where do you rank Sarri among the current generation of Italian coaches? How about among coaches worldwide?

I’d put him in the top five, but I wouldn’t rank him in the top tier of Italian managers at the moment. Conte is in a class of his own, in my opinion. Other than last year, I’d put Allegri in the same tier as Conte. Beyond them, I rate Gasperini highly but it would be interesting to see how he does outside of Atalanta.

Worldwide, I think he’s a top ten manager. If I had to rank them, I’d say this is my top ten: Klopp, Guardiola, Simeone, Conte, Zidane, Allegri, Nagelsmann, Sarri, Tuchel, Gasperini.

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

Definitely both. When you have Cristiano Ronaldo on your team, the objective always has to be the Champions League. While I don’t think the team is well equipped for a deep European run, a player like Ronaldo can make the difference in a big game. It would be a waste of his final years if Juve didn’t push for European glory.

7) Perhaps a tough one here but pick two from Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba, and Vidal for your midfield, and why?

I love Marchisio and it’ll be hard to leave him out, but I have to go with Pirlo and Vidal. Pirlo is the ultimate Regista and is needed to dictate play. Obviously, it helps he can score a free-kick from just about any angle. As for Vidal, he’s your classic box-to-box midfielder and is not afraid to jump into tackles. Few midfielders impressed me more than prime Vidal and let’s not forget, he could score, too. Juve’s current midfield is really lacking his type of profile.

8) Where are Juve’s weaknesses? Some say right-back, others say left-back, or many mention the midfield. Your take?

It has to be the midfield. This may anger some, but Miralem Pjanic is a complete liability both in and out of possession. Juve can do much better in his position and I think they’ll look to replace him this summer. Blaise Matuidi is necessary to press and offer defensive support, but ultimately he’s far too limited. Remember his turnover against Napoli?

I think this Juve side needs at least two signings in the middle of the park and should arguably offload two or three guys (Sami Khedira, Pjanic and perhaps Adrien Rabiot) As I said before, this midfield lacks fight and demonstrates zero Grinta.

Of course, our depth at full-back is worrisome particularly with Alex Sandro slowing down, but for now, I think Sandro and Juan Cuadrado can manage the situation. Hopefully, Pellegrini comes back in the summer and competes for the left-back position.

9) In your opinion who is the best player (not necessarily your favorite) to ever wear the Juve shirt?

It has to be Del Piero. Record goalscorer and record appearance holder, few match Del Piero’s resume with the club. He’s won it all with us and has inspired many to support Juve over the years. At the height of Italian football, he was one of the best and led Juve to many trophies.

Del Piero set the standard for our number ten jersey and raised the bar for everyone after him. Perhaps Buffon is in it with a shout, but I have to give this one to Pinturicchio.