Juventus are 21 games into the 2011/2012 season, and so far they are making a serious run towards the Scudetto. However, they still have return matches against many of the teams that they have played thus far. Perhaps most importantly for Conte’s side, there are a fair amount of matches against the provincial sides that Juve have struggled to defeat. If their current form keeps up, Juve may continue their unbeaten streak, but there are many possible pitfalls in the coming weeks and months.
Emanuele Giaccherini relayed some of these fears to Juventus.com, though he insisted that Conte would guide the team through successfully.
“The manager is good at rotating the team and has drummed the same mentality into everyone. I believe that’s been seen on the pitch, and those who have played less up until now have always provided a great response when called upon. The squad is large and has quality. Even with many games to be faced, there won’t be any problems.” – Emanuele Giaccherrini
Since the Bologna match was postponed, Juve’s next match is (unless this game is too postponed) against Parma on Wednesday. I’ll be briefly going through their remaining fixtures, starting with the Parma match. This is the first of three parts, and part one will take us through to the Genoa game on March 11th.
2/15/12: @ Parma
Last meeting: 4-1 Juventus victory
Comments: Parma are coming off of a 2-1 victory over Chievo Verona, and their match against Fiorentina on the 12th was postponed. Last time out, Juventus turned this game into a warning to the entire league that the Old Lady is back. However, Parma’s star Sebastian Giovinco (co-owned by Juve) has burned Juventus in the past. If Juve play at all like they did last time out, they should be fine.
2/18/12: vs Catania
Last Meeting: 1-1 draw
Comments: Last time out, Juventini saw two rare things (for this season): a Milos Krasic goal, and an Eljero Elia appearance. Milos will probably not be providing any goals in the next match, barring a change in plans and some injuries, but Elia may feature. Conte has been saying that Elia is looking much better in training, and I think Elia is about to feature more often in Conte’s plans. Still, this is a game where Juve could drop points and draw Catania once again. They will have homefield advantage, but that did not help them against Siena, so that does not assure anything. However, with the fixture list becoming quite clogged towards the end of the month, more peripheral players may start seeing more minutes. So far, those types of players have proved to be hungry (De Ceglie, Giaccherini, Estigarribia) and have taken advantage of those opportunities. Giaccherini has even become an almost bona fide member of Conte’s starting XI.
2/25/12: @ Milan
Last Meeting: 2-1 Juventus victory. Before that, a 2-0 Juventus victory.
Comments: Milan are a good side. That said, they have struggled against top six teams. Their loss to Juve in the first leg of the TIM Cup semi-finals was de-moralizing, and Juve at times totally bossed Milan. Their recent game against Udinese, a come from behind 2-1 victory, may provide them with a nice boost of morale. Before they face off against Juve, Milan face Arsenal in a big Champions’ League match, and they also have a league game against Cesena. Barring any more injuries for Milan, they go into the game on the 25th with a side that’s equal in strength to the side that faced Juve in the Coppa game. However, Conte will probably field more of his first-team players, like Matri, Vidal, and Marchisio. All three had strong games when Juve first faced Milan, and could again push Juve on top of Milan. On the other hand, Milan will be anxious to get revenge on Juventus for their two defeats.
3/3/12: vs Chievo Verona
Last Meeting: 0-0 draw
Comments: The first meeting was yet another example of Conte’s Juve failing to break down weaker opposition. Chievo have the gift of an incredibly hard working midfielder in my fellow American Michael Bradley, plus they have Sergio Pellissier up top. Pellissier has struggled to score this year, but last time out he had some dangerous chances. Most likely, this game will come down to Juve’s ability to finish chances, like so many of their frustrating draws do.
3/11/12: @ Genoa
Last Meeting: 2-2 draw
Comments: The biggest surprise from the last rendition of this match was the scoreline. Not the draw, but the two goals that Genoa put past Juve. Only Napoli have put up more, and indeed no other team (aside from Napoli) has scored two goals against Juve. However, the man who scored the equalizing goal, Andrea Caracciolo, is now at Novara. Indeed, Caracciolo scored Novara’s goal in their 1-0 victory over Inter. Still Genoa have a talented midfield, with the centerpiece being Miguel Veloso. Genoa’s defense is not as strong as it’s midfield counterparts, and they even conceded four goals to Catania in their last match. That iffy defense, plus the firepower provided by Matri, should be enough to see Juve through.
Unspecified date: @ Bologna
Last Meeting: 2-1 Juventus victory in extra time. Before that, a 1-1 draw.
Comments: Bologna have provided stiff opposition to Juve this year. Their first match ended in a disappointing draw, and in the TIM Cup Juve needed a heroic extra time goal from Claudio Marchisio to defeat Bologna. Bologna have games against Inter and Udinese in the near future, and a match against Juve in the midst of those other two would be a great help to Juve’s chances.
Part two will be posted in the next few days, with rundowns of the Derby d’Italia, and matches against other strong sides.