juventus bleacher report
Juventus are currently skipping toward their fourth straight Scudetto. Despite Roma’s enhanced challenge at the top of Serie A in 2014-15 and Napoli’s refining of their squad under Rafa Benitez, it’s been clear the Bianconceri are still top dogs in Italy, and they have been for some time.Where the Giallorossi drop off and lose steam, and where the Partenopei struggle due to lack of depth, Massimiliano Allegri’s troops just keep rolling. It’s automatic; it’s expected.But Serie A is no longer the battleground for Juventus to solely prioritise, as European successor a distinct lack of itis the major headline stalking Turin’s top team around every corner. The UEFA Champions League will be at the forefront of the fans’ minds; after long periods in shadows, Allegri has a squad capable of finally putting this team back on the map.Since losing the 2003 final on penalties to Milan, they’ve barely registered a noteworthy campaign. The Calciopoli scandal set them back, of course, but the quarter-finals has been as good as it gets. A last-eight matchup against Bayern Munich in 2013, ending in a 4-0 aggregate defeat, looks better with hindsight but at the time summed up their struggles: They simply weren’t in the conversation when it came to the top, top clubs in Europe.But Allegri has done what few thought possible when he replaced the iconic Antonio Conte at the start of the 2014-15 season: He’s made Juventus better. A figure of ridicule at Milana man widely perceived to have solemnly sunk aboard his half-wrecked shiphe’s rejuvenated both his own career and the club from a wider standpoint.Rather than recalibrating the team’s mentality or revamping the XI, it’s been the change in formation that looks to have transformed the fortunes. Despite switching to a 3-5-2 against Roma on Monday to squeeze out a gap-maintaining point at the top of Serie A, Juve’s bread and butter over the last few months has been a 4-4-2 midfield diamond.The stout three-man defence, by and large, has been shelved. Aggressive and goring as it was, the imbalance between numbers at front and back left Juve out-gunned in attack when they faced the very best. The system fell apart if either Andrea Pirlo (regista) or Mirko Vucinic (linking forward) were marked closely; Bayern entirely nullified the former by placing first Toni Kroos, then Thomas Muller, in a man-marking role on him.The diamond is built on midfield power, and it has an obvious fail-safe option if Pirlo stands unable to pick the lock with longer passes. He still contributes, but the key factor is he is no longer plan A, B, C and Dtitles he more or less held under Conte.”Stop Pirlo, stop Juventus” is no longer accurate, and in fact, the Bianconeri have two other world-class midfielders who can carry the load when artwork and creativity fails. Paul Pogba slaloms and slices through midfields, while Arturo Vidal drives forward with tenacity and aggressive dribbling. Claudio Marchisio uses high football IQ to balance the formation out and has enough energy to place himself correctly.Carlos Tevez, arguably, is the club’s best player. Despite dropping off the radar a little following his move to Serie A and exile from the Argentina international setup, he remains a world-class player. His intelligent positioning and running up front, in addition to his own famous work-rate, gives Juve an edge up front Vucinic, Alessandro Matri and Vincenzo Iaquinta never could.They are, overall, a more thrilling watch, but that’s not the main plus point behind the diamondthe fact Juve are no longer so easy to nullify and blunt is. Plan A, B, C and D are all different; the club no longer rely on Pirlo (although his free-kicks are still of great use), and the depth of the squad is impressive.A wildly unpopular appointment at the time, Allegri has won the doubters round and holds a 2-1 aggregate advantage heading into the round of 16 Champions League tie with Borussia Dortmund. The advantage shoulder be greater; only profligacy in Turin has allowed BVB to still consider themselves in the tie.Regardless of the second-leg result, Juventus are returning to relevancy in European competition thanks to Allegri and a simple switch in shapeand they should be here to stay.Follow @stighefootball
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