Breaking Down Juventus' Champions League Group Stage Opponents
After reaching the quarter-finals in 2012-13, Juventus endured a disappointing Champions League campaign last term, exiting the competition in the group stage. Despite being placed in a comfortable looking pool, the Bianconeri were unable to overcome Galatasaray or FC Copenhagen, leaving their supporters wholly dissatisfied.
As such, Massimiliano Allegri has stressed the importance of ensuring the club improves its performances in Europe since his appointment in mid-July. The new coach understands he will need to do just that in order to win over a largely sceptical fan-base, telling reporters at his inaugural press conference (h/t UEFA.com):
Juventus are still the favourites in Italy, while there are many other big clubs playing in Europe. We have to be one of the best eight in Europe. I will try to get the best out of my players and will adapt to their characteristics.
The one major criticism of Antonio Conte was his adherence to a 3-5-2 formation which struggled in continental competition, and the club has attempted to help Allegri in that regard. Thanks to the arrival of versatile players such as Alvaro Morata, Romulo and Roberto Pereyra, the coach should have greater tactical flexibility than his predecessor.
That should benefit all concerned, and Claudio Marchisio noted the new man’s greater emphasis on attack in an interview with TuttoSport this week. He extolled the impact that the coaching change should have, telling them (h/t Football Italia):
Now it is different, Allegri has a different idea of the game, as we saw against Milan. We work mainly on the possession of the ball. In Europe it works well, we saw it again last year when we faced teams with little to them, they played safe football, whilst we had some difficulties.
This is the most important step to be taken. And will this improved imagination be best felt in Europe? Definitely. We often speak of our failure in Europe, but the first year we went out against Bayern and last time we threw away qualification against Galatasaray.
Juve’s Pot One opponent is last year’s beaten finalist Atletico Madrid, lead by a familiar face in Diego Simeone. The former Inter and Lazio midfielder led his side to a shock league title win in 2013-14, adding to his growing reputation as a highly-respected coach.
Despite the loss of both Diego Costa and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to Chelsea, Los Colchoneros can consider their summer a success. They held on to key men such as Gabi and Koke, also adding smart additions like Mario Mandzukic and Antoine Griezmann to bolster the side.
Playing in a high-octane 4-4-2 formation, Simeone’s men will provide a stern test for Juventus, their tireless pressing sure to prove a tough obstacle for the Bianconeri.
From Pot C, the Bianconeri were pitted against Greek champions Olympiakos, managed by former Spain international Michel. The 51-year-old, who made over 400 appearances in midfield for Real Madrid, has won two league titles since his appointment in February 2013.
The club lost central defender Kostas Manolas to Roma only this week, their official website confirming they had paid €13 million to acquire the 23-year-old. He will be a major absence this term, although the presence of Javier Saviola, Eric Abidal and Ibrahim Afellay provide some familiar names.
Rounding out the group are Malmo, the Swedish side once home to former Juve striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Winners of last season’s domestic title, they are a side the Bianconeri will be expected to beat both home and away.
Massimiliano Allegri will be expected to comfortably ensure progression to the knockout stages, with both Malmo and Olympiakos missing out. Failure to do so would be unacceptable, and would place the new coach under immense pressure.