Mancini Prepares for Liechtenstein Clash

Following their impressive 2-0 win against Finland, Italy have proven they are ready to put their past issues behind them, and finally re-establish themselves as a threat on the international stage, starting with the 2020 Euros. Italy tactician Roberto Mancini has shown he’s ready to give youth a chance, all-while not undervaluing experience.

Today, Mancini held a press conference ahead of Gli Azzurri’s clash with Liechtenstein, and highlighted the importance of establishing an identity for the side, something that was lacking under Gian Piero Ventura’s guidance.

We have to keep growing and look to maintain the same identity as a team, no matter the opposition in front of us. We’re happy with the result: We want to bring back the enthusiasm to the national team, and what better way than through our play. We still have a lot of work to do,” said Mancini in the press conference.

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Since becoming Italy boss, Mancini has introduced a slick 4-3-3 with a highly technical midfield, including two registas in Jorginho and Marco Verratti. In doing so, the former Inter tactician ensures gli Azzurri are able to impose their possession-based game and dominate the opposition.

While results are often the compromise of good football, it hasn’t been the case for Mancini’s Italy, as they have registered four clean sheets in their last four games and have started their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign on the right foot.

I think a team that plays with a determined style of play over a series of games with success could establish their identity,” added Mancini.

Clearly, after Italy’s World Cup disaster and tame displays against Sweden that saw them get eliminated, Mancini’s number one priority was to introduce character. Thus far, he’s had success introducing the likes of Moise Kean and Nicolo Zaniolo while also turning to the experience of Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Fabio Quagliarella.

Acting with balance of youth and experience in mind, Italy are playing their best football since Antonio Conte’s tenure, and will likely be a threat at the Euros. With a clash against Liechtenstein on the horizon, Mancini is ready to blood in more players and mix up his starting eleven once more.

“We’ll change 3-4 players from our starting eleven against Finland, perhaps even more,” said Mancini.

According to recent reports, Milan captain Alessio Romagnoli is rumoured to start in defence while Stefano Sensi is set to get a start in the midfield. Romagnoli has arguably been the best defender in Italy this season, and deserves a shot at usurping Leonardo Bonucci in the starting eleven. Sensi, on the other hand, has been in exceptional form for Sassuolo, and is an ideal deep-lying playmaker for Mancini’s 4-3-3 in the absence of Verratti or Jorginho.

Otherwise, Leonardo Spinazzola will start at right back after a string of top notch performances for Juventus while it’s likely that Fabio Quagliarella will get rewarded with the full ninety minutes after an impressive cameo against Finland.

While question marks were raised after Mancini’s appointment, the Italian tactician is proving to have the midas touch so far for gli Azzurri, introducing a clear style of play and identity to the national team for the first time in over two years.

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Juventus injury updates and ICC news

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Exactly one month after undergoing a heart ablation, Sami Khedira has passed the cardiology tests and has been cleared to practice, Juventus announced yesterday. The German international respected his initial timetable and could be at the coach’s disposal for the next game versus Empoli, although he will likely be eased into things after the health scare.

As anticipated last week by Massimiliano Allegri, Douglas Costa took some tests yesterday too, but, according to Tuttosport, he has not progressed enough to train fully and will continue to rehab for a week before another check-up. Continue reading

Juventus Finally Turn To Youth Ahead Of Crucial Stage

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It took a 16 point lead over second-place Napoli for it to happen, but Juventus have finally started giving their homegrown players a chance, and what an impact they’ve had so far. Following a narrow victory over Napoli, the bianconeri essentially wrapped up their eighth consecutive Scudetto, and could definitively pour all their efforts into the Champions League; especially now with Ajax in their way of a semi-final berth.

Prior to their clash against Atletico Madrid, Juventus hosted a relegation threatened Udinese. With their lead at the top secure, Allegri made the most of the opportunity and fielded Moise Kean and Leonardo Spinazzola from the start; two homegrown players. Until now, both players had played a bit-part role since returning to Juventus, and were rumoured to go out on loan to mid-table Serie A sides in the January transfer window to gain experience. In the end, both vetoed any proposed loan moves and opted to fight for their place.

It wouldn’t take long for Kean to make his impact felt in his first start in Serie A action this season, and notched a brace inside forty minutes with two smart finishes. The Italian international would even win the bianconeri a penalty, however, Kean, on a hat-trick, allowed Emre Can to take it. Safe to say, the 19-year-old proved he’s worthy of more minutes moving forward, especially considering the bianconeri’s 18-point cushion at the top. Thus far, the Italian international is averaging a goal every 35 minutes for Juventus, highlighting his instinctive nature in front of goal.

Spinazzola, by contrast, had a very strong outing against the Zebrette playing as a right-wingback. Despite playing on the opposite wing, the former Atalanta man was still able to demonstrate his turn of pace, successfully completing two dribbles in the process. Much like Kean, Spinazzola showed Allegri he’s ready to compete for a starting position, especially considering Alex Sandro’s decline over the last two seasons.

With the Brazilian suspended for the crucial second leg against Atletico Madrid, Allegri rewarded Spinazzola with a starting berth in the biggest game of the season. The Italian international did not let the pressure of the moment get to him, and made the most of his opportunity, tormenting Atletico’s Santiago Arias at will.

Before being subbed off for Dybala in the 67th minute, as Juventus looked for a winner, the 25-year-old was one of the bianconeri’s most impressive players on the night, and showed that Alex Sandro’s place in the starting eleven isn’t as secured as the Brazilian would like to think. After seven loan spells spanning from 2012 to 2018, it’s finally Spinazzola’s time to establish himself as a Juventus regular.

Kean, on the other hand, was given just over ten minutes to make an impact against Atletico, and he did exactly that. Against one of Europe’s elite defences, Kean looked extremely dangerous, pressing their defenders at neck-breaking pace as they tired. After an impressive run behind the Spaniards’ defence, the Italian international almost found the winner but fired his effort just wide with his weak foot. Nonetheless, much like his compatriot, Kean showed Allegri that he can compete at the highest level despite his inexperience and is ready to challenge Mario Mandzukic for more minutes.

Had Kean and Spinazzola not believed in themselves and stayed with the club in January, we could have been looking at a much different Juventus side today. After being forced by the circumstances to play them, Allegri has found further depth in these two homegrown talents. With a crucial stage in the season approaching and Champions League glory in their sights, it’s clear Kean and Spinazzola will only get more minutes to prove their worth, and rightly so. After all, they’ve earned it.

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Juventus Top Performers – UCL Round of 16 Return Leg

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Juventus painted a masterpiece on Tuesday night, thanks to an amazing collective effort, a rarely seen fierceness and an out-of-the-blue tactical solution and got the ‘magical night’ they have been looking for.

Joao Cancelo: he was arguably one of the least effective players on the pitch, relatively speaking and considering his skills, as he could have done more with all the space he had at his disposal. However, bonus points are part of the equation and he sent in a pinpoint cross to set up Cristiano Ronaldo’s second goal. Continue reading

Allegri and Chiellini preview the second leg with Atleti

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Coach Massimiliano Allegri talked to the press on Monday night to introduce the second leg of the Atletico Madrid clash: “We believe to have a chance to come back. We will have to be able to understand what course the game will take. Maybe it will go differently from how we prepared it, we will need to grasp the various moments.”

Douglas Costa will not be available due to a new injury: “We tried to force, he did one practice and a half, but he felt some pain again today. It is an important game and we needed him.” Continue reading

Agnelli comments on bond and Spinazzola speaks

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The president Andrea Agnelli and the CFO Marco Re explained the issuing of the €175M bond: “We are very satisfied for the operation. It is a corporate bond, so we issued it directly, not through a vehicle. We have been the first club to do it, it is a senior and non-guaranteed loan. It is a move that confirm our ability to plan. We are trying to continue to grow, even though we are aware that the top teams are still distant.” The executive stated: “The dynamic of the debt is clear by the numbers, it was €310M in June, then we spent €160M in the summer window. Even with the ability to generate cash flow, it is set to raise, hence the bond. Our goal is sustainability and the route to do it is to replicate what we did with Adidas.” They recently renegotiated the terms of the sponsorship. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 23

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Juventus: Federico Bernardeschi will be good to go after leaving the last game with a chest injury. On the other hand, Douglas Costa is iffy due to a bruised quad and Leonardo Spinazzola has a sore ankle. Giorgio Chiellini (calf) will be out again, while Leonardo Bonucci (ankle) is making a late push to be in the squad list.

Napoli: Amin Younes is having troubles with the surgically repaired Achilles tendon. Raul Albiol is reportedly dealing with a patellar tendon issue that could turn out to be a very serious one.

Inter: Matteo Politano will serve the final game of his suspension. Balde Keita has been called up despite the coach saying that he is not ready. Borja Valero is out with knee soreness.

Continue reading

Soccerex study released, new UCL list and Rodriguez linked to Juventus

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Cristiano Ronaldo turned 34 yesterday and briefly talked to the club’s TV after practice: “I am very happy to be celebrating my birthday here, it is nice to be in Italy. I want to thank the fans to the messages and the affection. Being at Juventus in a great experience and I feel lucky to play in Serie A. People are treating me very well, especially within the club and Torino is a very nice and quiet city. My family and my kids are happy and therefore so am I. The squad is in a good moment, we feel well and we are top of the league, we advanced to the Champions League quarter-finals and we won our first trophy. We are ready for the upcoming games.” Continue reading

Juventus injury updates, Ronaldo turns 34 and Kean speaks

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The squad resumed practicing today after a two-day break following the tie with Parma: Federico Bernardeschi practiced regularly after bowing out on Saturday due to a knock on the ribs and therefore avoided a fracture. On the other hand, Leonardo Spinazzola has a bruised ankle. Douglas Costa wrecked his car in an accident on a motorway yesterday, but he was unscathed. He still did not train because of a quad ailment that forced him to sub off at half time against Parma and has been labelled as day-to-day.

Cristiano Ronaldo turns 34 today and, as a gift, he returned on top of the scorers’ chart on his own, since he bagged a brace and the players ahead of him, Atalanta’s Duvan Zapata and Sampdoria’s Fabio Quagliarella, did not find the target in this round. Continue reading

Allegri: “We must not relax otherwise we can compromise everything”

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A rare Sunday presser for Massimiliano Allegri, since Juventus will play on Monday night: “It is the first Serie A game after the break, so it is different compared to the previous two one. We need to have a serious approach. They have lost just once since Domenico Di Carlo was appointed, with five draws and one win. They are a lively team, they re-found the enthusiasm to believe they can avoid the drop. It will be difficult but they will fight till the end. We have to respect them, play well, run a lot and possibly win the game.”

On Cristiano Ronaldo: “He does not need Duvan Zapata scoring four goals as motivation, he is self-stimulated, like all of us. We won the first trophy of the season, now we must commence the second half of the season well.” Continue reading