5 Reasons to Believe Juventus Will Win the Champions League
Rewind back six years to the beginning of the 2006-07 European season. A time where Ronaldinho was gracing the world stage, Cristiano Ronaldo was shining in Manchester, and the Italian national team were at the top of the world.
For Juventus, however, things weren't as pretty. Following the Calciopoli scandal, the Bianconeri found themselves relegated to the Serie B and were sitting bottom of the table.
Seven years on, though, the Old Lady is rebuilt, and after disposing of Chelsea 3-0 in their UEFA Champions League group clash, they are in a box seat to qualify out of their group. Provided they record at least a draw against Shakhtar Donetsk this week, Juve will be through to the knockout phases of the competition.
Despite recent losses to both Inter Milan and AC Milan, Juventus have proven that they are indeed one of the best sides going around Europe at the moment. As such, tifosi everywhere have every right to believe that Antonio Conte's side can go all the way this year and bring the UEFA Champions League trophy to Turin.
Here is why...
Use of a 3-5-2 Formation
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During their 49-match unbeaten streak, Juventus adopted what was considered an unorthodox 3-5-2 formation. For any team, let alone one playing in Italy, a back-line comprising of just three defenders can be very easily undone and exploited.
In addition to this, Juve had become accustomed to a 4-4-2 formation in the previous years and signed players accordingly.
Despite this, Antonio Conte established a formation that became seemingly unbreakable. What is interesting to note is that the first time Conte's men were defeated adopting such a tactical mindset was at the hands of Napoli in the Coppa Italia. During this match, Napoli also employed the use of a 3-5-2 system and went on to win the title.
In their recent defeat to Inter, Juventus were also defeated at the hands of a 3-5-2 formation. As such, Juventus' only defeat at the hands of a formation that does not comprise of three defenders is their controversial 1-0 loss to Milan. So why is this important?
Well, in an infographic released on whoscored.com, it was revealed that the most popular formation used across each of the top five leagues in Europe was comprised of four defenders. In actual fact, the Serie A is the only league which features the 3-5-2 lineup in its top three formations of choice.
Juventus' progression in the Champions League would see them face sides that do not adopt a similar formation. The Bianconeri are practically masters at applying the formation, and unless teams have honed its practicalities, they will easily be undone.
The adoption of specialist players, including Kwadwo Asamoah, Mauricio Isla and Andrea Pirlo in this formation has made it almost impenetrable as well as extremely effective.
Any team that comes up against Juventus in the latter phases of the competition will have a very hard time dealing with the organised Bianconeri.
Return of Antonio Conte
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After being sidelined for allegations of match fixing during his time with Siena in the Serie B, Antonio Conte is close to returning to the Juventus bench. Conte's return brings with it a renewed hunger for silverware, and considering Conte has only been defeated once at the helm of Juventus (vs. Napoli), his return will have Europe on high alert.
The last time Conte made an appearance in the Champions League was as a player. During this time, he won the trophy and finished runner-up on three separate occasions. One would suspect that defeat in three separate finals will have Conte hungry to bring the title back to Juventus.
His added passion as well as ability to make the tough decisions could see Juventus rise above the rest in the later stages of the competition.
Best Midfield in the World
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After prolific showings both domestically and in Europe, Juventus' midfield can very well be considered the best in the world. Conte's setup, as previously mentioned, sees Juve play five strong across the middle of the park.
In the centre of the park, Andrea Pirlo pulls all the strings alongside Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio. It has proved the perfect mix of creativity, work ethic and defensive mindset, with each of the three bringing their own unique quality to the pitch.
With no distinct goalscorer upfront, Juventus' midfield shares the burden of getting goals, and it does so in emphatic fashion...after all, it was Arturo Vidal who netted in both legs against Chelsea and Claudio Marchisio who bagged a double just Sunday morning against Torino.
Alongside Juventus' three central midfielders exist two makeshift wing-backs. During the summer transfer window, Juventus expertly recruited to fill these positions with specialist players. After poaching Kwadwo Asamoah and Mauricio Isla from Udinese, the Bianconeri bolstered their starting 11.
Both Isla and Asamoah rotate with Stephan Lichtsteiner in the role on either wing. The three have proven themselves to be amongst the fittest players in the Serie A and, as such, provide an extra outlet on both flanks in attack and defence.
In conjunction with each other, the centre-of-the-park and wide players ensure that Juventus—on most occasions—keep a majority of possession. In addition to this, the Bianconeri possess depth on the bench in the form of Paul Pogba, Emanuele Giaccherini and Luca Marrone. Each of which is beginning to hone the required skills to tactically play out a 3-5-2 formation.
On a side note, if you want to read further on why Juventus' midfield can be considered the best in the world, check out this article.
Juventus Stadium Is a Home Ground Fortress
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With just one defeat in all competitions at Juventus' new home ground, the Juventus Stadium is proving somewhat of a fortress for the Bianconeri. The newly built stadium lies on the site of the Stadio Del Alpi—Juventus' former home ground.
Whilst there were some memorable European nights when played at the Del Alpi, it will be up to the new generation of Bianconeri to write the new history books of their new home. If recent form is anything to go by, things are looking very promising.
This year, Juventus—in the Champions League—have recorded two wins and a draw inside the state-of-the-art arena. In addition, they have netted eight times and conceded just once, prolific form for any side in Europe.
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The last time Juventus lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy was during the 1995-96 installment of the competition. Since then, the Bianconeri have made it as far as the finals on three occasions. There is no doubt that the closest they came was a loss in a penalty shootout at the hands of AC Milan in 2003.
It has been 16 turbulent years in Turin, and although numerous pieces of silverware have been won—some revoked—nothing matches the elation of being crowned champions of Europe. Yes, an undefeated Scudetto is an amazing achievement, but until Juventus reclaim Europe's most prestigious title, they can never say they fully recovered from Calciopoli.
They have the team.
They have the coach.
They have the infrastructure.
Juventus have every reason to believe that 2012-13 will be their crowning glory in Europe.