Siena is a beautiful town, one of the more underrated towns in Italy in a region with the massively overrated cities of Pisa and Florence. (Note: I like Florence, not so much Pisa, but most people act as if Florence is the best place in the world with no comparisons. Not true, same goes for Venice.) Set in the beautiful sleepy Tuscan countryside, Siena is often overlooked by tourists as it is about an hour off the A1 from Florence to Roma, just as it was overlooked by the Romans millenia ago. It is a pretty small city, just 55,000 residents but it you are in Italy, it is definitely a place to check out. Most of the walls from 1,000 years ago still surround the hilltop city, and the Duomo, Cathedral, Piazza del Campo, the Palazzo Pubblico, and the annual Palio horse race are all plenty worth the trip. Juventus travel to this treasure of a city to take on another Bianconeri, AC Siena. Full preview after the jump.
A panorama I took of Siena from the top of the Duomo
Siena is a minnow team of Italy, from a city one half the size of Bergamo, home of the "Queen of the Provinces." The team gained their first-ever promotion to Serie A in 2002-2003, quite an accomplishment. Juventus has occasionally had troubles with smaller teams, see the plucky fights from Bologna and Livorno earlier this season. For some reason, we've always struggled against Catania over the last few seasons. Thankfully, Siena is not one of these teams. In the grand total of 5 league games played in Siena, we have won 4 and lost 1, scoring 12 goals and conceding 2 in the process.
The last two years Siena has been something of an underrated miracle. We all talk about the stunning salvation of Cagliari two seasons ago, or the resolve of Chievo last season to avoid relegation, but Siena has managed to stay in Serie A despite extremely limited resources. Mario Beretta led them to salvation 2 seasons ago, and current coach Marco Giampaolo did the same last year, and was linked with several big clubs last summer. He decided to stay, and it will be another tough year for Siena if they are to survive. Right now they are 2nd-to-last in the standings, with only fellow Tuscans Livorno underneath them. They've been my pick for relegation for the last 3 years running more or less, and only time will tell if like Reggina, their luck runs out at the end of the season.
The Bianconeri Alliance- For the last few years, Siena has operated as one of our partner clubs for transfers. Genoa and Empoli did similarly 2 seasons ago, Genoa did too well with our players and Empoli did too poorly. Right now in Serie A it is Siena and Bari that we have a good relationship with. Left-backs Paolo De Ceglie and Cristian Molinaro both spent time on co-ownership in Siena, as Juventus youth product Michele Paolucci is currently doing, alongside Albin Ekdal. Neither have seen much playing time yet, only making 2 and 4 sub appearances respectively, but may be called up in the future to help Siena avoid the dreaded drop to Serie B.
Marco Giampaolo- Rumors say that Giampaolo was one of the possible coaches for Juventus, and he confirmed he was indeed contacted by management this summer. He had a unremarkable playing career, sort of like his younger brother and current Serie C journeyman striker Federico Giampaolo who was in the Juventus Primavera for a few years.
Excellent- As I already stated, we have an 80% record in Siena and last year was notable as in the 2nd-to-last game of the season, Ferrara made his first appearance as head coach. Del Piero scored a brace, assisted on his 2nd by Marchisio, who he had previously assisted for his goal earlier in the match.
Juventus- Improving: (WDLDD)- Hopefully the Maccabi win can help us morale-wise.
Siena- Disastrous: (LDLDL)- A straight ticket to Serie B, on current form.
FORMATIONS AND LINEUPS:
Juventus- (4-2-3-1): With Marchisio and Del Piero out, I think we're going to stick with the 4-2-3-1 as it worked quite well against Maccabi, creating plenty of chances. Tiago, Marchisio, Salihamidzic, Zebina, and Del Piero are out with injury, but otherwise the roster is fairly full.
In defense, Grygera will likely return as Zebina is taking a well-deserved month's vacation having played an incredible 30minutes without a break. ItalJuve will retain their places.
In midfield, we will probably again see Sissoko and Melo anchoring the defense, both of whom are impressive to be ready. Sissoko has played a lot since his return from injury, and has not shown any fitness concerns, whereas Melo has recovered from that brutal tackle on Wednesday with just some severe bruising. One or the other may be swapped with Poulsen, who has put in some decent performances recently. I would hope for Giovinco-Diego-Camoranesi to retain their places, as they all worked wonderfully. Some websites have suggested Iaquinta will take Giovinco's place as a left-winger, and I hope to God not. Based on how Gio played, why on Earth would you take him out? Iaquinta can play that position, but he's not meant to.
Up top is anyone's guess. There's been some reports that Trez is feeling pain in his knee, but there's no such report on Juventus.com and he's been included in the squad list. I think we should start him, as I think he's ideal with the attacking trident up top, unless Amauri is in form, which he is not. Iaquinta might get a choice to start, but he's cooled down since the first few days of the season.
My XI: (4-2-3-1)- Buffon; Grygera, Cannavaro, Chiellini, Grosso; Melo, Sissoko; Giovinco, Diego, Camoranesi; Trezeguet
Predicted XI: (4-2-3-1)- Buffon; Grygera, Cannavaro, Chiellini, Grosso; Melo, Sissoko; Iaquinta, Diego, Camoranesi; Amauri
Maybe it's 2 years of Ranieri, but Ferrara has just made so much sense lately that I feel it's high time to be a bit disappointed. I hope I'm wrong.
Siena-Copied from Goal.com's preview, as I have no idea what is going on in Siena. "Luca Rossettini and Anssi Jaakkola are the only injury concerns. Michele Fini is serving a three match ban. Abdelkader Ghezzal joins him in the stands with a one game suspension."
Probable Starting XI (4-3-1-2): Curci; Rosi, Terzi, Bardao, Del Grosso; Vergassola, Codrea, Ekdal; Jajlo; Maccarone, Calaio.
Juventus-Trezeguet/Iaquinta/Amauri: Whoever the hell is playing prima punta better score. Preferably more than once.
Siena- Massimo Maccarone: The Milan youth-product is not a good striker, but neither is anyone else at Siena. Siena fans will be hoping for him to have a good game
PREVIEWS/LIVEBLOGS AND PREDICTIONS: 3 points are absolutely necessary. Siena is in crisis and will fight hard, but we must win. I am hoping for a 3-0 win.
Ferrara: «We want to win in Siena»
Ciro Ferrara returns to Siena, where at the end of last championship he made his debut on the Juventus bench: «It is a happy memory and return. I will never forget that first match, the excitement, the hotel in which we stayed and where we will also be staying this time and which is exactly overlooking the stadium. For me it was my first match as coach ever and the excitement was great. Returning is a pleasure. I also remember the victory against Siena. I remember everything to the slightest detail: anxiousness, tension, pressure due to the particular moment of the team and obviously he result which coincided with those of Milan and Fiorentina thus favouring us. It was a perfect day».
Turnover – It could be that some players are rested. Nowadays the only periods when we don’t have mid-week matches between now and December is when the national teams are playing. We will have to get used to give breathing space to those who play all the matches. I have an ample squad. I would obviously prefer not to have any injured players but I stress the fact that against Maccabi I has three players in the stands. It is true that there is a greater difficulty when it comes to changes but I can adapt a defender.
Few goals – By seeing the statistics I can tell you that Juventus is amongst the top teams when it comes to shots on goal, goal opportunities and ball possession. The stats are important because they speak of us as creating goal opportunities and attempting many shots at goal, however at the moment we are not managing to finish all of them. It is not however, a question of tactics it is simply a moment and does not represent a problem.
Tactics – On Wednesday in the Champions League I changes formation but in the last few days we worked on both formations. I see that even other teams change tactical approach according to the particular match. On Wednesday Juventus had 19 shots on goal and therefore managed to do so notwithstanding the fact that we had only one striker. However, if now we were to return to the normal tactics I don’t think it would create confusion. It is not a problem with the high level players we have. It is we both solutions that we can have an excellent equilibrium. The formation is of little importance. What are more important are the equilibrium and will fielded in each circumstance.
The match against Maccabi – Wednesday’s approach was good but was conditioned a bit by the final minutes due to the fact that we were forced to win and we were a bit scared of our goal being equalized. We have to avoid this and must always give the impression that we can manage the 1-0 without taking risks.
Three important points – Winning in Siena would win us three points of equal importance to those obtained against Maccabi. It is a tricky away match and one that must be interpreted in the right manner. Giampaolo is risking? I don not know about his situation. I have a good relationship with him and think well of him, but obviously I cannot allow myself to be conditioned by all this. We are thinking exclusively of a victory.
Del Piero – His recovery is proceeding well but we need to examine this day after day in order to have him back at 100%. I think that by the end of the month he will be back with the team even if not in a definite manner.
The players care only about cars? – I am sure that Giovinco and Marchisio, for example, would like to have a Ferrari but I think they are very much concentrated on their work. I agree with Mourinho, however, on the fact that the environment has changed a lot, that there are less values and that sometimes the sporting aspect is of secondary importance. It is ahrd to keep one’s feet on the ground. When a youngster makes it big, after playing one or two matches in the Serie A he is immediately offered conracts worth millions, they think of him with the national team, in other words they give him everything and then they just take it all away at the first moment of difficulty. Pressure comes also from the families. Everybody thinks they have a Maradona at home and then these 14/15 year olds cannot withstand the pressure.
It was a particular afternoon for Claudio Marchisio and Jonathan Zebina. The two players were protagonists at the New Holland Grand Prix organized at the Torino Esposizioni where many stands including a children’s area, information stands and a space called the penalty area in which Jonathan and Claudio took part in a very particular event: with the control panel of a New Holland bulldozer they took part in a penalty shoot out using the arm of the bulldozer to shoot the penalties sending many balls to the back of the net.
«It is always fun to take part in these events – stated Claudio and Jonathan – We were never aboard one of these machines and it was interesting to be able to manoeuvre them». At the end of the event the champions then spent some time with the public, signing autographs and taking photos to the enthusiasm of the many Juventus fans present.
If I can find a video of that, I'll post it, it sounds hilarious.