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Can Juventus challenge for the Scudetto?

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By Peter McVitie

Wednesday 31 August 2011

Juventus have struggled to impose themselves as title contenders following their return to Serie A in 2007. Despite finishing third and second in 2008 and 2009 respectively, Juve have slumped to seventh place finishes in the past two seasons and they will be without European football this term. In an attempt to regain their status as one of Italy’s, and indeed Europe’s, biggest and most successful clubs, Juventus have undergone a complete makeover this summer, bolstering their defence, midfield and attack as they look to challenge the Milanese clubs, as well as new contenders Napoli, for the scudetto.

With the acquisition of Stephan Lichtsteiner from Lazio and Reto Ziegler from Sampdoria, the Bianconeri have solved the full-back issues which have been evident for years. Andrea Pirlo adds strength to the midfield and will play alongside new signing Arturo Vidal, whilst Michele Pazienza adds depth to the midfield, and Eljero Elia from Hamburg SV brings some pace down the flanks. Winger Simone Pepe and strikers Fabio Quagliarella and Alessandro Matri have made their loan moves from Udinese, Napoli and Cagliari, respectively, permanent and following failed moves for Giuseppe Rossi and Sergio Aguero, Mirko Vucinic joins talisman Alessandro Del Piero in attack having made a €15m move from Roma.

In each of their signings, new Coach Antonio Conte has brought in some very strong attacking players who, Elia aside, have Serie A experience and have all excelled at top Italian sides. Conte has put together a very strong attacking team, even full-backs Lichsteiner and Ziegler offer extra attacking options down the flanks as both have great pace and can deliver great crosses into the box. In Pirlo and Vidal they have a balanced central partnership, even if, as some speculate, the former’s legs have gone, he still has great passing range and Vidal will play the more advanced, attacking role of the two. Pepe is a quick, skillful winger who can play on either flank and is also a goal threat, especially from set-pieces.

Quagliarella, if fit, can be deadly from almost anywhere on the park, the former Napoli player has scored some outrageous goals in his career and will continue to do so for the Zebre, he can play either as a striker or behind the front line. Vucinic is a very versatile, skilful and clinical goalscorer and the thought of him pairing up with the prolific Matri and captain Del Piero is to be savoured. The former Roma star can play as a main or secondary striker and is also comfortable on the wings so there is no limit as to how Conte arranges the forwards.

With such talented defenders, midfielders and attackers at his disposal, Antonio Conte has turned a talented, yet struggling Juventus side into one which looks incredible on paper. The new-look Juve is a balanced one, it looks very solid defensively, the midfield looks strong and the attackers are quick, clinical and fierce enough to put every single back-line in the league under immense pressure. There is a good mix of attack and defence with this team and turning one into the other very quickly should not be too much of a problem. The onus is on Conte to get the team to blend properly but, as most members of the squad are vastly experienced in Italy’s top-flight, that shouldn’t take too long to do. With the talent at their disposal, the coming season will be a very exciting one for Juve. Without the distraction of European football a good start to the league campaign will see them apply the pressure on the Milan clubs and the Partenopei from the very beginning of the season and could see them posing a serious challenge for the title.

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