Juventus: Complete Guide for the 2012-13 Serie A Season

Jack Alexandros Rathborn@@jackrathbornContributor IIIAugust 13, 2012

Juventus: Complete Guide for the 2012-13 Serie A Season

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    Juventus enter the new season in a peculiar position.

    The Bianconeri managed to win their first scudetto since the infamous Calciopoli scandal in 2006, and one would expect Juve to be buoyed by this and high on confidence for the new season.

    The joy has been short-lived though, as several members of Juventus were embroiled in the latest betting scandal in Italy, simply known as Calcio Scommesse (football bet). The scandal has come to light after it was alleged that several Serie B matches were fixed.

    Nonetheless, Juve continued to build upon their success on the pitch and despite the allegations levelled at manager Antonio Conte; as well as players Leonardo Bonucci and Simone Pepe—they appear to be in great shape for the opener against Parma.

    Director General Giuseppe Marotta has built upon his excellent work in player recruitment last season, that bought in the likes of Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal, further strengthening the champions as they embark on a European adventure alongside their title defence.

    Here I take an in-depth look at the Bianconeri and how they will fare this season.

Arrivals and Departures

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    Juventus have made several significant signings for the upcoming season.

    Firstly, Juve upgraded the defence by taking the vastly experienced Lucio on a free transfer, after being released by Inter Milan, while Martin Caceres made his loan from Sevilla permanent for €8 million.

    The Bianconeri raided Udinese for two of their best players, swooping for Kwadwo Asamoah and Mauricio Isla for a combined €18 million to own 50 percent of each player, both of whom could operate in the wide areas of Juve's 3-5-2 formation.

    The departure of Alessandro Del Piero brought an end to an era, but after buying the remaining rights (50 percent) of Sebastian Giovinco from Parma for €11 million, Juve are optimistic that they have a candidate that is capable of filling the boots of their beloved hero.

    Some young talent for the future was also drafted in, including former Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, on a free transfer, as well as the talented goalkeeper Nicola Leali.

    Outside of Del Piero, Juventus lost several other players with Fabio Grosso (released), Eljero Elia (€5.5 million to Werder Bremen) and Milos Krasic (€7 million to Fenerbahce) all departing.

    Marco Borriello's loan was not made permanent, and Felipe Melo's loan to Galatasaray was extended.

    It appears that Juve will look to bring in one more player, probably a striker, with the latest reports from ESPN linking them with Athletic Bilbao's striker Fernando Llorente.

    Juventus look very close to completing a formidable squad that will not only be capable of retaining their title, but competing for the Champions League too.

Calcio Scommesse and the Fallout That Will Concern Juve

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    Calcio Scommesse looks to have come to an end for Juve for the time being, after Antonio Conte was handed a 10-month ban from football after being found guilty of omission.

    Conte was proven to have failed to report that two matches, while in charge at Siena (against Albinoleffe and Novara) were to be fixed. Juventus have stated in this official statement that they intend to fully support Conte and appeal his ban.

    Fortunately for Juventus though, Leonardo Bonucci and Simone Pepe were acquitted of the charges levelled against them. Bonucci was charged with direct responsibility in fixing a match against Udinese (while playing for Bari), while Simone Pepe was accused of the same charge as Conte.

    Conte's assistant Angelo Alessio was also banned for eight months, which means that Massimo Carrera, a member of Conte's management team, will take the reigns for the time being. It is unclear whether Juventus will allow Carrera to serve as Juventus manager for the entirety of Conte's ban should their appeal fail.

    Carrera was able to defeat Napoli in his first game in charge in the Supercoppa last weekend in Beijing. Juve triumphed 4-2 after extra time, with Napoli beginning extra time with nine men after Goran Pandev and Juan Zuniga were dismissed.

Impact of the Champions League

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    Juventus will compete in the Champions League for the first time in almost three years.

    The starting lineup was formidable last season, and has not been significantly altered this summer despite numerous signings. Juve's squad was in fact weak last season, but they largely escaped significant injuries.

    This, along with an absence of European football, allowed Antonio Conte to successfully operate with a small group of players.

    This season will be different though, with a burning desire to succeed in Europe's premier competition, along with the new signings adding sufficient depth to be able to compete in multiple competitions.

    For example, the alternative options in defence include the highly experienced Lucio and the versatile Martin Caceres.

    The wing-back areas look strong as well. Mauricio Isla and Stephan Lichtsteiner are both competing for a start, and Paolo De Ceglie is looking to hold off competition from new signing Kwadwo Asamoah—who despite preferring to operate centrally, may find his best chance of starting is out wide.

    This is a sign of Juventus' transfer policy, as they target players who can fulfil numerous positions. As well as Asamoah, Simone Padoin is capable of playing any role in the midfield.

    And although Isla will probably compete for a wide right berth in the side, he successfully operated centrally for Udinese last season.

    The mercurial talent of Paul Pogba will look to be given more minutes than he was afforded by Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, and Sebastian Giovinco makes up a group of four strikers which might be added to before the deadline.

    Juventus certainly look prepared for the added games this season and one cannot help but be impressed by Juve's renaissance.

Potential Weaknesses

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    Juventus look very strong in defence and midfield with a plethora of options at the disposal of the manager, whomever it may be.

    There is strength in numbers in the attack too, however it would be fair to say that Juventini are sceptical about the cutting edge that Sebastian Giovinco, Mirko Vucinic, Alessandro Matri and Fabio Quagliarella possess.

    While all very talented in their own right, none appear to be able to compete for the Capocannoniere award. Giovinco scored the most of this quartet last season, scoring 15 times for Parma, but the Gialloblu afforded him the responsibility of penalty kicks and free kicks to boost his tally, which will not be replicated with the Bianconeri.

    Vucinic and Quagliarella have questionable fitness records, and while Matri is a decent finisher, he hardly strikes fear in to the opposition.

    The potential arrival of Fernando Llorente could change things, though. With a record of 30 goals in 53 matches last season at Athletic Bilbao, he would also provide the perfect partner for Giovinco.

    Off the pitch, Juve could encounter problems with tactics in the absence of Antonio Conte, should his ban be upheld. Massimo Carrera has no experience as a manager at the top level and Juventus will be faced with the dilemma of whether to wait for Conte to return or put a more established manager in place to ensure they can fulfil their potential this season.

    Should they decide to support Conte, as appears probable, the likes of Massimiliano Allegri, Walter Mazzarri and others will hold a significant advantage over Juventus when it comes to altering proceedings mid-game and successfully adapting to the opposition.

Predictions

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    Serie A

    It was only a few weeks ago that Juve were tipped to stroll to a second consecutive title, especially when Milan sold Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to PSG.

    However, Antonio Conte's ban seems to have changed everything. Should Juve stand by their manager, then it would significantly impede them, especially in the Champions League without a manager with any experience.

    The added burden of being the league's biggest scalp, due to being the champions, should also hamper the Bianconeri and allow potential challengers like Milan to drift under the radar.

    While the squad has been bolstered, there will only be a couple of days to prepare for six league matches before the Christmas break, which will be completely alien to the majority of this group after last season, when Juve were able to solely concentrate on the scudetto.

    Nonetheless, I envisage Juventus successfully retaining their title, in excess of three points.

    Coppa Italia

    This would have been the icing on top of the cake last season, but Juve fell at the final hurdle, losing to Napoli in the final, which slightly spoiled what had been a near-perfect season.

    This year though, priorities lie elsewhere and the approach to the competition will be different. It will probably be seen as an opportunity to nurture some of the young talents in the squad like Paul Pogba and Luca Marrone.

    With this in mind, I expect an exit before the semi-final stages.

    Champions League

    Juventus will be excited at the prospect of European football returning to Turin for the first time in almost three years, but there will be some anguish at a nightmare proposition that could await them.

    The rebuilding phase in the past three years has meant that Juventus have fallen in to pot three in the UEFA seeding system.

    This will make qualification from the group phase problematic for the Bianconeri, with a group of death that could include either Barcelona or Real Madrid from pot one, Manchester City in pot two and even Paris Saint Germain or Borussia Dortmund from pot four.

    Should Juve be able to land either Arsenal or Porto from pot one they will be confident of progression, nonetheless tough opponents such as Manchester United, Chelsea and Bayern would probably mean qualification as runners-up would be the most likely scenario.

    With this in mind, I would expect Juventus to probably exit the competition at the first knock-out round, which would probably signify success.

    Jack Alexandros Rathborn is a football analyst for Football Radar, you can follow him on twitter at @jackrathborn and @FRcalcioJack.

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