Going undefeated over 38 matches in a domestic league season is no easy feat. Before this season, it had only happened twice in the history of the Italian Serie A. Perugia went unbeaten in the 16-team league during the 1978-79 season, but lost out on the title to Milan, who completed an unbeaten season during the 1991-92 season, winning the Scudetto.
Juventus became the third team to accomplish the feat during the 2011-12 season, winning 23 matches and drawing 15. They defeated defending champions Milan by four points for the title. It was the club's 30th Serie A championship, but 28th official due to the Calciopoli scandal, which stripped the club of the two titles won under Fabio Capello.
While Milan will come back with a strong team in 2012-13, Juventus will do the same and have little reason to believe they can't be champions again next May.
In fact, I am making the prediction that the two northern giants will combine to dominate Serie A next season and that the title will be decided by a maximum of three points, coming down to a derby result one way or another between the two.
Juventus may have the advantage for many reasons.
Juventus Stadium opened this past season as a replacement to the Delle Alpi. This seemed like a relief to the city of Turin and the fans of Juventus but a nightmare for the rest of the league.
To put it gently, Juventus Stadium is a impenetrable fortress. The 41,000-seat stadium is one of the loudest in Europe thanks to the fans, who are extremely close to the field and can make life a nightmare for the away team.
Juventus won 13 of their 19 home matches last season, drawing the other six. They scored 40 goals and allowed only 12 and while they allowed less goals on the road, they were far more dominant at home thanks to the fans who finally had a decent stadium to be proud of as well as a team that had finally emerged from the depths of the Calciopoli fallout.
With half of their games played at the most terrifying home ground in the league, Juventus are already given an advantage.
While his name will always be preceded by the words "AC Milan legend," he will be remembered by generations of Juventus fans for being a main reason why Juventus won the Scudetto this past season.
The 33-year-old left Milan at the end of his contract after guiding the team to a Scudetto win in 2011, saying he was ready for another challenge. Many criticized Milan for letting him go to Juventus of all clubs.
Juventus didn't mind. 37 matches, three goals and a league-leading 13 assists later, Pirlo was hoisting the trophy once again.
There is no doubt that without Pirlo, the season may not have turned out the same way for the Italian champions.
There is little doubt that Pirlo still has the drive he had in the prime of his career and that he can still play at a high level. Expect him to have another great season in 2012-13 and have Juventus aiming towards another title as well as challenging on a European scale.
Juventus have one of the brightest attacks in Italy, with three stars leading the way.
Alessandro Matri was the leading scorer at 10 this season, with Claudio Marchisio picking up nine and Mirko Vucinic striking eight times. Nineteen players scored a total of 68 goals this season and five scored five or more.
Juventus can only improve on what they did in attack this season and they will certainly need to to show Milan who's boss, but with the rumors that both former youth team star Sebastian Giovinco and Real Madrid front man Gonzalo Higuain could be on their way to Turin among others, this could be one deadly attack next season.
This may sound like an awful thing, but if Juventus are to dominate Serie A next season, an early Champions League exit may be a blessing in disguise, and it may not be crazy to talk about the possibility.
The reason is simple. The way that the Group Stage draw works is that teams are placed in one of four pots. The higher your UEFA Club Coefficient, which is determined by performance by clubs in European competition over a five-year span, the higher the pot you will be in. Groups are made of one team from each pot.
Juventus are in Pot 3 no matter what happens in the Qualifying Rounds. The first two pots look as follows:
|Pot 1||Pot 2|
|Barcelona (ESP)||Valencia (ESP)|
|Manchester United (ENG)||Benfica (POR)|
|Chelsea (ENG)||Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR)|
|Bayern Munich (GER)||Zenit St. Petersburg (RUS)|
|Real Madrid (ESP)||Schalke 04 (GER)|
|Arsenal (ENG)||Manchester City (ENG)|
|FC Porto (POR)||Olympiacos (GRE)|
|AC Milan (ITA)||Braga (POR) OR Dynamo Kyiv (UKR) OR Ajax (NED)|
From this group, Juventus can only not play Milan because they are both Italian.
No matter who they play out of Pot 1 it will be a difficult challenge, and they will need to pray for some help by the folks drawing the names. The preferable path would no doubt prevent them from playing Schalke or Manchester City, mostly City.
If for some reason Juventus are drawn with City, their life in the Champions League could be short-lived, and even if they finish third and drop to the Europa League, it will allow them to focus more on Serie A.
Even if they are not out in the Group Stage, a likely second-place finish would put them against a first-place group team in the Last 16, which would make it hard for them to play past early March, leaving them ready for the final push in Italy.
Giuseppe Marotta did say the team will try to win the title for the third time ever, but the better chance is in Italy.
He was a star as a player for the club and now he's a legend after one season as manager.
The always enthusiastic Antonio Conte handled his team brilliantly and just when it seemed like Juventus might crumble heading into the derby with Milan on Feb. 25, the club recovered, and from there, there were no doubts about who the champions would be.
The latest match-fixing probes have him over the fire, but if he is still on the sidelines for Juventus in the fall it is only a plus for them.
Conte has shown he knows how to win, he knows how to connect with his players and he clearly loves going to work every morning. Now that he has had his contract extended for two seasons, he will have even more drive to bring as many trophies as possible back to Turin.
Antonio Conte has asked the club to invest heavily in the team this summer, and that could mean some big name players are heading to Turin.
Sebastian Giovinco's co-ownership with Parma is a major talking point in Italy this year. The 25-year-old product of Juventus has been linked with the likes of Barcelona and Manchester due to his performance in recent seasons for Parma, but a return to Juventus is not out of the question. Giovinco will make his decision after Euro 2012, where he will likely be a key player for Cesare Prandelli's Italy squad.
Napoli striker Edinson Cavani sank Juventus at the Coppa Italia Final last weekend, but now could make it up to them by joining the club in the summer. It is reported that Juventus are going to offer a lucrative offer to the Matador in order to lure him away from the keen eyes of European champions Chelsea and English champions Manchester City. Cavani finished in a tie for third with 23 goals in Serie A this season.
Giuseppe Marotta claims that Juventus are extremely close to landing teenage sensation Paul Pogba from Manchester United. Pogba spent the season in the United reserve team that won the Premier Reserve League. The midfielder's performances earned him three appearances in the Premier League for the first team and time in the League Cup and the UEFA Europa League this past season. The 19-year-old Frenchman has been linked to the club for a long time.
Gonzalo Higuain is another big name linked with Juventus. As mentioned earlier in an earlier slide, Higuain is a target of Juventus after receiving little time at Real Madrid this past season. It is believed that the 24-year-old striker no longer wants to play behind Karim Benzema and could be ready to join the Bianconeri if the deal blossoms.
With such big names linked to Juventus, they could be even stronger next season.
Juventus were the best defensive team in Serie A last season. It helped to have Gianluigi Buffon in goal, but the back line only made him face 97 shots in the 35 matches he played.
Juventus have not four, but five great defenders that they can deploy: Giorgio Chiellini, Paolo De Ceglie, Stephen Lichtsteiner, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli. Take any of the four plus Buffon and try and score. Go ahead, I dare you.
Add in a sixth with young Uruguayan Martin Cacerces, and this team is loaded in the back. It is always difficult to score on this team, having only allowed 20 goals in 2011-12. Expect them to be an even stronger defense next year.
As it was this season, there will be only two teams vying for the Scudetto in 2013: Juventus and AC Milan.
First and second all-time respectively in Scudetti won, Juventus and Milan are big rivals no matter what, but this past season brought the added pressure of a title race. Despite Juve's zero losses to Milan's six, Milan finished only four points off the pace. The Rossoneri's nearest competitor for the other Champions League Group Stage spot was Udinese, who finished 16 points back of second place.
With only one team to worry about stripping the title from their hands, the fight should not be as stressful as it was most of the first half of this season, when Udinese, Lazio and Napoli all hanging around for a while.
Obviously, teams have to be on their guard every week, but Juventus will be far superior to most of Serie A, especially with teams like Napoli selling off their stars potentially with no links yet to replacements. Even Juventus' fiercest rival, Torino, who won Serie B to return to Serie A for the first time since 2009, will likely sell their best player, defender Angelo Ogbonna, this summer.
The struggle for superiority is easier when it is only two teams. Difficult, but still easier than it would be with four or five teams in contention.
To be honest, a big reason for Milan not defending their title this year was the injury situation. Not once did Milan field a team without at least one player unavailable due to injury. Normally, at least three players were injured at one time, making life very difficult for the club.
A regular theme within this trending theme for Milan is the nagging injuries of Alexandre Pato. The young star forward is a threat at all times when he plays, but he has been injured about as often as he has played since he joined in 2007, if not more often.
If Milan can keep their team healthy this year, they may very well overtake Juventus, but odds are there will be some serious injuries as is tradition and Juventus will need to take advantage.
When you have one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time in your goal, you have to feel pretty confident.
There is no denying that Gianluigi Buffon is one of, if not the greatest goalkeeper ever.
The 34-year-old has been there, done that and done it again. If you count the two stripped titles, he was won the Scudetto five times, won two Italian Super Cups, led Juventus to within a penalty shootout of winning the Champions League in 2003 and he won a shootout for Italy in the 2006 World Cup Final.
Despite losing out to Milan in the Champions League Final in 2003, he was voted the tournament's Most Valuable Player and that season won Best European Goalkeeper. He is named on Pele's FIFA 100. He is the eight-time Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year. He was named to the UEFA Euro 2008 Team of the Tournament. He has been named to the UEFA Team of the Year three times and the IFFHS recently named him not only the Goalkeeper of the Decade from 2000-2010, but named him the best keeper to date in the 21st century.
Thanks to some stellar defense, Buffon only faced 97 shots, saving 81 of them this season. He conceded only 16 goals and led Serie A with 21 clean sheets in 35 matches.
Safe to say, when you have Buffon in your team, you're not going to give up many goals.