How Juventus got back to the top
Thursday, April 23, 2015
Juventus have made it to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League for the first time since 2002/03; UEFA.com's Paolo Menicucci explains how the Old Lady came good again.
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Through to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 2002/03, Juventus are enjoying a spectacular season; UEFA.com explains how the Old Lady's fortunes took a turn for the better.
Allegri's relaxed approach
When he joined Juventus last summer, not many believed that Massimiliano Allegri could match the achievements of his predecessor Antonio Conte, who had led Juventus to three consecutive Scudettos. However, the former AC Milan coach has sparkled so far; as well as making the last four in Europe's top club competition, his side are 15 points clear in Serie A and through to the Coppa Italia final.
If Conte's combative, us-against-the-world approach paid huge dividends in Serie A, Allegri's more relaxed attitude to big games seems to have paid off in Europe. "He has brought a sense of calm," Andrea Pirlo said recently. "He does not give too much importance to individual matches. He played in plenty of Champions League matches with Milan, and this really helped us. He gave us confidence after less good performances in recent years."
Conte built his Juve successes around a 3-5-2 system; Allegri has been more flexible. He started out using Conte's template but switched to a 4-3-1-2 in November to make better use of his four midfield stars – Pirlo, Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio. Injuries in midfield, and centre-back Andrea Barzagli's return to fitness, did not prompt any further changes, but he kept that reliable 3-5-2 system on the back burner – wheeling it out for this week's second leg at AS Monaco FC, when Juve restricted their opponents to just one shot on target.
The players seem to enjoy this less rigid system, especially Carlos Tévez, who said: "With Allegri, I have more freedom of movement than under Conte. Under Allegri [the forwards] only have a fixed position when we don't have the ball – we're more free to play the way we want to play when we attack. We play differently in the Champions League to last year; we're mentally and physically ready. This team can take on anyone."
Safe at home
The completion of Juventus Stadium in 2011 made Juventus the first Serie A club to build and own their stadium, and the Bianconeri have made the most of their home. Intimate and atmospheric, it is now a veritable fortress, and not only in Italy, where Juve made history by winning 19 games out of 19 at home in the 2013/14 campaign.
The Bianconeri have lost just once in 17 European home fixtures at their redeveloped ground and are unbeaten in 12 home matches in UEFA competition going into the semi-finals, including victories against Malmö FF, Olympiacos FC, Borussia Dortmund and Monaco in the current UEFA Champions League campaign.
Age before beauty
"You get the impression that you're like a bottle of wine here," said left-back Patrice Evra of his time at Juventus. "The older you get, the better the taste." Allegri fielded a very experienced starting XI in the return leg of the quarter finals against Monaco, with an average age well over 30, and Evra was certainly among the top performers, the 33-year-old enjoying an Indian summer in Turin.
The player Pogba calls "mon tonton" (my uncle) has bowled everybody over since he joined from Manchester United FC last summer. "He needed a couple of months to adapt, but Patrice has proved his worth since," Allegri said. "He's a very intelligent player who has played in England for a long time, playing a very different style of football there. He has a strong personality and is showing why he has been playing at the top level for so long."
The most successful club in Italy, Juventus have only won the top prize in European football twice, having lost the last three finals they reached. The club crave European success, with 37-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon desperate to get his hands on the UEFA Champions League trophy.
"In football, and in life, you should not use words like 'always' and 'never'," he told UEFA.com earlier this season. "Surprises are always around the corner and anything can happen. I would not be too surprised if we managed to get our hands on the trophy. And when you win as underdogs, victory is certainly that little bit sweeter."