Return of Juventus Brings a Grand New Stadium for Champions League Football

Thomas CooperFeatured ColumnistSeptember 30, 2012

The Juventus Stadium makes its Champions League bow in Juve's game against Shakhtar Donetsk on 2 October.
The Juventus Stadium makes its Champions League bow in Juve's game against Shakhtar Donetsk on 2 October.Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Juventus' return to Europe's premier club competition after an almost three-year absence is well deserved after their superb, unbeaten Scudetto-winning 2011-12 campaign.

Even according for the absence of manager Antonio Conte, the mastermind behind that triumph who is currently suspended for his involvement in a match-fixing scandal, the Champions League is more interesting for the presence of the Old Lady of Turin.

That was in evidence a couple of Wednesdays ago when they faced reigning champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Depending on your viewpoint, it was either a daunting first game or a suitable challenge to help them quickly re-adapt to the challenges of major European competition.

After going two goals behind to a brace from Brazilian Oscar, it could well have been the former.

But Juve were better than that score demonstrated, and came back to earn a deserved point with goals from Arturo Vidal and Fabio Quagliarella.

Their performance was in keeping with a side that already this season in Serie A are looking once more to clearly be the best side in Italy.

As much as fans of the Bianconeri will have been looking forward to taking on Chelsea, it is their second Group E fixture that (especially now) will hold a special measure of anticipation.

This Tuesday sees them welcome Shakhtar Donetsk to the Juventus Stadium, their first Champions League fixture in the stadium.

Three years ago, Juventus' last home games in the competition (they finished third in Group A in 2009-10) were played at the Stadio Olimpico di Torino.

With a capacity of just 28,140, crowd numbers were low, but the lack of a suitable stadium for one of Europe's biggest clubs was something all involved were well use to.

The Stadio delle Alpi, their home since Italia '90, was considerably larger.

But unlike big, (potentially) atmospheric stadiums like the Nou Camp, Old Trafford and Signal Iduna Park (formerly Westfalenstadion), it was a complete nightmare for fans.

The infamous running track around the pitch meant they were far away from the action, and in keeping with the general norm of Serie A, facilities and overall comfort were not compensatory as they too were sub-standard.

What did compensate (at least until the Calciopoli scandal took hold in 2006) was supporters at least had the pleasure of watching a generally successful and entertaining side.

Since the beginning of last season, the latest great Juve team has a home suitable to house them, and one that is a suitable host for the biggest nights in European football.

At a capacity of 40,000, the Juventus Stadium is not among Europe's biggest (it will be hosting the 2014 Europa League final, rather than the Champions League equivalent), but it does rank as one of its best.

Its design is more in keeping with England, and particularly Germany's best, with the crowd up close to the pitch, making for better views and, in theory, a better atmosphere.

Even with a shiny new stadium, it is nothing without the efforts of the fans, so it is to the credit of the Juve tifosi they have responded well in this respect.

The usual customs of Italian football fans are present, with the banners, flags and organized declarations of their love there to be seen at the beginnings of games especially.

Atmospherically, it has already proven to be a great step-up from their previous two stadiums.

Both supporters and team alike will be keen to ensure they mark Tuesday's special occasion in the best way possible, and quickly get to work on cementing this as one of the game's true grand arenas.