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Luca Cetta On May - 18 - 2012

Juventus Sign Off in Style As They Look Ahead

Juventus 2011-12 has etched its place in history. Just like Antonio Conte wanted, his side can only be matched but never surpassed. The Bianconeri completed a remarkable 38-game unbeaten season by conquering Atalanta 3-1 and then watched as outgoing captain Alessandro Del Piero lifted the Serie A trophy high into the Turin sky

Having secured the Scudetto and record, Antonio Conte’s mind is now focused on completing the entire season unbeaten in the upcoming Coppa Italia final versus Napoli. However further ahead comes season 2012-13, where the Turin giants will have a crack at Europe’s top prize as they return to the Champions League. Conte – who is set to extend his contract through to 2016 – and director Giuseppe Marotta will look to build from the strengths in the squad this campaign.

Conte’s defence was the best in any 20-team league in Europe – conceding just 20 goals, a Serie A record in the 20-team era – as the Bianconeri kept 21 clean sheets. Gianluigi Buffon – as he pointed out – was close to his best ever season, only let down by one error. Their central defence is strong: Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli were superb during the season - notably the latter - and Leonardo Bonucci grew in stature as the term wore on.

This also applies to Paolo De Ceglie, who looked at ease in the 3-5-2, whilst in Stephan Lichtsteiner and Martin Caceres, Juve have two exceptional players on the right. They will require an extra body for depth with the additional rigours of European football, especially if the three-pronged backline plays an integral role.

Former Juventus midfielder Emerson reserved special praise for the trident of Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio, noting: “Pirlo provides the brains and the experience, Vidal the personality and strength, while Marchisio offers talent and courage.”

A large reason for the minimal number of goals conceded stems from the efforts of the trio, as does the possession-based football and large number of attacking forays. The three gelled together almost instantly, harassing and pressing off the ball and retaining possession. Juventus finished with the third highest possession count in Europe, only behind Barcelona and Bayern Munich. They will again form the basis of midfield, with Marco Verratti and Kwadwo Asamoah touted as potential signings. The club could also look to its youngsters Luca Marrone and Maunel Giandonato to have an increased role.

With two thirds of the pitch only requiring small renovations, Juve can center its attention on securing a bomber. Alessandro Matri finished top scorer with ten goals, meaning 18 players either matched or bettered his return. Matri’s form slump since February cost him a place at Euro 2012 and sent Marotta towards the transfer market. Robin Van Persie and Edinson Cavani appear the main targets – both are lethal finishers - but the Dutchman has suitors in England and Cavani renewed his contract with Napoli.

Aside from resolving the Marco Borriello issue, Juve may hunt another creative striker. Stevan Jovetic is a possible candidate and his past Champions League experience at Fiorentina would be valuable. Sebastian Giovinco is a chance to return from his co-ownership at Parma and could slot in to Del Piero’s place in attack.

Juve’s focus this summer is evolution, not revolution. Often compared to Marcello Lippi’s first squad of 1994-95, perhaps Juventus can look to back at Lippi and co. the following season as they lifted Europe’s top prize. They too lost an idol in Roberto Baggio, but Del Piero proved he was ready for the biggest stage. That squad – of which Conte was a member – made additions to help bolster the squad as they transitioned to the Champions League. Today’s European arena is very different to that of 16 years ago, however it is critical the club strives to ensure the new champions will be competitive.

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