The Champion's League is back, and what a cracker of a group we have in Group A. French champions Bordeaux, German giants Bayern Munich, and a plucky Israeli side, Maccabi Haifa. First game is at home, against Bordeaux. Full preview after the jump.
The French cannot conquer Turin- This is our 11th home game against a French side in the Champion's League, which seems awfully low to me. The results? 9 wins, 1 draw, and the last draw you have to go all the way back to 1983-1984 Cup Winners Cup against PSG, which finished 0-0. It was also the last time we've failed to score at home against the French (put your sexual puns here) scoring 22 in the other 8.
Bordeaux cannot conquer Italia- They have never won a game in Italy, with 2 draws and 5 losses. Better yet, in 6/7 of them, they didn't score. The only game they have scored in Italy (you're reading that right) was a 3-3 draw against Fiorentina in 2000.
Juventus hasn't lost at home in 5 years- Last time was that dreadful 0-1 loss to Deportivo in 2004. There have been 16 home games since then, with 11 wins and 5 draws.
Those statistics all read beautifully. If it continues to be so, we can assume Bordeaux cannot beat us, cannot score, and that we will triumph. Obviously football is about 90minutes, but these records are very encouraging.
FORMATIONS AND LINEUPS:
Juventus- Definitely out of the game are Grygera, Del Piero, Diego, Salihamidzic, Sissoko, and Chiellini, who is serving his 1-game suspension from last year's red card against Chelsea. Juventus.com chopped off a few names, as De Ceglie, Tiago, and Legrottaglie will be available to Ferrara, so don't worry.
In defense, it is assumed that Cannavaro will return from his rest to partner Legrottaglie, with the absence of Chiellini. Grosso is likely to get the nod at left-back, despite playing 80minutes Saturday and last Wednesday in Bulgaria, and right-back I think Caceres will be given his Juve Champions League debut. While Zebina is fit to play against his countrymen, he's just returning from injury so playing him might be a risk.
In midfield, I hope Camoranesi sits this one out. He's been in mediocre form recently, and I think it's equally due to his work to adapt to the 3-man midfield, but also simply, he's played too much recently. Tiago should start over him, I assume that that was why Tiago was rested on Sunday, not because Ferrara prefers Camo, but because he wanted Tiago fully-fit for today. Felipe Melo will anchor the defensive-midfield, and Marchisio will likely be sent out to battle. These players have all played a lot recently and it's proof of the depth you need in midfield. Sissoko and Zanetti could come in handy in this situation, but obviously both are unavailable. Maybe even Poulsen will get a cameo.
In attack, Giovinco will substitute for the injured Diego, and Ferrara will likely return to his current-duo of Iaquinta-Amauri, with Del Piero still trying to get over his injuries.
Predicted XI: (4-3-1-2): Buffon; Caceres, Legrottaglie, Cannavaro, Grosso; Marchisio, Melo, Tiago; Giovinco; Iaquinta, Amauri
I will be perfectly honest with you. I know very, very little about Bordeaux, except they produce wine, and good wine at that. Ex-Interista Laurent Blanc (actually, who played alongside Ferrara at Napoli with Ranieri as their coach) has done very well with the team, leading them to break Lyon's Ligue 1 hegemony last season. Obviously ex-Milanista Gourcuff has been a revelation at the squad, so we will have to watch him closely. Aside from that, I don't know who plays there or what their lineup is, so I'm copying Goal.com's lineup and recommending you check out Jennifer at the Bordeaux Offside for more information.
Predicted XI- (4-5-1): Carrasso; Tremoulinas, Ciani, Planus, Chalme; Wendel, Diarra, Fernando, Gourcuff, Gouffran; Chamakh
Looks like they play with a pretty compact midfield. I'm guessing given his surname, Diarra plays a defensive midfield role. Our midfield is going to have a battle on their hands.
According to women, he is apparently quite good looking. I guess French women need someone to lust after, the other fantasista wouldn't work out.
Juventus- Giovinco- Against a packed midfield like Bordeaux, Gio might struggle as he thrives on space to run at defenders. Expect him to get fouled a lot, this game is going to ask plenty of questions of him in which I will go to greater detail below.
Bordeaux- Gourcuff- Because he's very good, and he's the only one I know. I'm ignorant, I know, but I have better things to do than watch Ligue 1, like gnaw my arm off.
PREDICTIONS AND PREVIEWS: 2-0, in a tight affair like the Lazio game. Expect us to get on the scoresheet 2nd half, and late in the game. For other previews check out the Bordeaux Offside, and Goal.com.
Ciro Ferrara is preparing to lead Juventus for his first time in the Champions league. The coach, strong from a positive outcome of 5 victories in as many matches on the Juventus bench, will find and ex-team mate, Laurent Blanc on the Bordeaux bench: «I have great memories of us as team-mates – underlined Ferrara. We met recently in Nyon and it was a pleasure just like when I got to know he became the Bordeaux coach. There is a relationship of esteem and friendship which binds us». The friendship comes from the years spent on the field together, the esteem from the excellent results obtained up to now by the Frenchman: «They are the champions of France and are unbeaten for over 15 matches. This must make us reflect. Tomorrow, it will not be a normal match for us because it is the first in the Champions League. The first of the group stage always has dangerous twists but we want to do well. What differs compared to the championship? Well, the championship isa long race and a defeat now and then is acceptable but in the Champions League you cannot afford to lose. Our objective at the moment is to qualify from the group stage and to do so we must not drop any precious points. Therefore the match is much more delicate from this point of view».
For tomorrow’s match, Ferrara will have Zebina back but will not be able to count on Del Piero or Diego after the latter was forced to leave the field due to an injury during the match against Lazio: «Del Piero is continuing to work and when he will not feel any more pain he will be available while Diego has had good news. We had been worried after having seen him leave the field but the tests showed it is not a big problem. We will see if we can have him back by the end of the week or for the match against Genoa».
The Brazilian will be substituted by Sebastian Giovinco: «I am satisfied with all those who played against Lazio and even with him. There is no question anymore about whether he has matured. If he is part of this squad it is because we believe in his qualities and he has all the possibility to show them. A player must always take advantage of the occasions he is given. I read somewhere that I would not have fielded him when Diego was injured. This is not true. The simple truth is that Seba joined after the others due to his commitments with the Under 21 squad but I have always fielded him when he was available. Tiago as playmaker? He could adapt to that role, just like Camoranesi, but I do not want to go against the characteristics of the players. At the start of the season I said I did not want to put too much responsibility on one player and neither did I want to construct a team around one player. Juventsu, at the moment, is having positive feedback especially from the players who come on to the field after the start of the match and who are winning us points and this should be one of the strong points throughout the season».
Ferrara warned his players with regards to the next opponents: «Bordeaux is a team with important points of reference such as Gourcuff, Chamakh (who is very good when it comes to heading the ball and giving the ball to his mates), or Wendel who has great technique. They are well organized, they all defend, are clever at building up the action rapidly and have players like Diarra o Caini who are good from set-pieces and therefore we will have to be careful even when it comes to inactive balls».
The most renown player of Bordeaux is in fact Gourcuff who, after having managed to gain himself an important role with Milan, has become even more the start of the French team. This fact may bring to light the difficulty Italian football has in launching young players: «Sometimes players who arrive in Italy at a young age find it hard and for Gourcuff this was the case especially in a team like Milan. Some players manage to express themselves better in their own country and this seems to be the case: Gourcuff had shown he possessed great technical qualities but managed to find continuity in his country. With regards to the capability of launching youngsters it seems to me that Juventus has done so allowing them to reach high levels».
Gigi Buffon- It is a new opportunity for the bianconeri to try and confirm themselves even in Europe:. This is the objective of Buffon – who was busy addressing the press conference together with Ferrara – and his team mates: «During Saturday’s match against Lazio, we never stopped fighting and believing in the victory even when we encountered difficulties. After just three matches in the championship it is still early to say for sure but we have undertaken the right road».
The bianconeri are therefore about to get back to Euroepan football and just like a year ago, the group stage is not a simple one. Buffon, therefore, wants a Juve that is ready to face the match against Bordeaux with the same ardor fielded against Real Madrid and Zenit: «last season we played against highly acclaimed opponents and yet we won the group and gave signs of being an important team. In the successive round we faced an improving Chelsea and we could have even gone through. Now it is still early to say if we can aim at winning the competition but we surely have a more competitive squad».
The squad was in fact strengthened by the signings of the likes of Cannavaro, Grosso, Felipe Melo, Caceres and especially Diego. The former Werder player will miss the European debut and even though the news with regards to his injury are positive (7 days of recovery) and put everybody’s mind at rest, Buffon thinks that Juventus is ready for the appointment even without its Brazilian champion: «Diego is an important player for us and we would like him to play in every match but a great team cannot depend on one player. In order to be competitive it must have an ample squad with many players of a high level».
THE GIOVINCO QUESTION: I meant for this to have its own post, because I think it's a very important debate, but with the packed fixtures list I figured it was important to have a preview up about the first Champion's League game. It isn't a discussion on his recent comments, I understand his frustration, but about his role.
To me, Diego's performance against Roma confirmed that perhaps Giovinco is not set out to be trequartista. The two goals he scored, I'm not sure Giovinco would have, he probably would have been knocked over by the defenders and taken a free kick, he doesn't have the kind of power that Diego used to hold off the defense. As such, he gets knocked over too often and has trouble staying on his feet. Against Lazio, he was muscled off the ball a few times, but he seemed to thrive when he had space and drifted out to the flanks.
If he was moved up front to Del Piero's position, he'd have a bit more space but more importantly, other players couldn't be so foully with him as they'd be conceding free kicks in prime locations or even penalties. But from what I've seen, he doesn't have a strikers killer-eye for goal, he is definitely more of a provider than a poacher.
So where is his ideal position? Is it as Ranieri saw it, on the flanks? Is it as a trequartista, or as a striker? (He gave some of his best performances last season as a winger) Is his mediocre performances at trequartista due to a lack of form, or his size? The counter-arguments are that he hasn't been given a lengthy run out in the team, perhaps he could improve there. He is young, so many of these skills, such as becoming more of a goal-scorer, these could be learned. But some traits are inherent, like his size. Another possibility would be to convert him to a regista, like what was done with Andrea Pirlo. Giovinco has great vision, though it would waste his dribbling ability. So to close out the preview, where do you think Giovinco's ideal role is?
C'e' una stella che indica il camino, forza Juve, vincere e' il tuo destino!!