That Watford & Udinese Thing: Reasons To Be Cheerful

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In the summer of 1986 Udinese were in trouble. As punishment for their part in ‘Totonero bis’ – a match-fixing scandal which tore through the game and left many of its players and clubs tainted forever – the Friulian club were relegated to the second tier of Italian football. While his arrival may not have had the global impact of Silvio Berlusconi’s landing at Milan some four months earlier, Giampaolo Pozzo’s arrival would prove to be a watershed moment for a club who bear little resemblance to the one he bought 26 years ago.

Read more at InBedWithMaradona.com

Udinese Losses See Them Become A Cliché

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Lazy stereotypes. Admit it, we’ve all done it. Writing about German football without using the word efficient is the journalistic equivalent of eating a donut without licking your lips. Italian football is slow, dull and built on playing not to lose rather than going for the win. England’s players are fast, powerful but have the first touch of a fumbling teen that got the head cheerleader drunk. Even when players don’t fit this mould they are dismissed as ‘the exception that proves the rule’ such as Brazilian midfielder Dunga who was as far removed from the ideals of Samba football as Paul Scholes was from what we expect English players to be.

Read more at WhoScored.com

Out Of The Blue: Italy Continue To Overlook Toto Di Natale

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With injury and illness robbing Cesare Prandelli of two players who were quickly establishing themselves as Italy’s first choice pairing under the former Fiorentina coach, it has quickly become necessary to look for alternative options in attack for the Azzurri. Such is the gravity of the situation with both Giuseppe Rossi and Antonio Cassano, it is arguable both will miss next summers European Championships and the need to plan without them becomes paramount.

Read more at WhoScored.com

ESPNsoccernet: Guidolin Follows Arsenal Model

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Thirty-eight games of effort, skill and determination all culminating in securing that prestigious fourth spot. A summer spent having very public transfer negotiations with Barcelona for a highly influential player who not only wants to leave, but has stated his desire to move only to the Camp Nou club.

At first glance Udinese have very little in common with Arsenal, perennial contenders of the latter stages of the Champions League.

Read more at ESPNsoccernet

Udinese-Juventus: We Have Lift Off!

September 19 2010. Remember the date, it may just be the day that la vecchia Signora awoke from the self-inflicted slumber of the past three seasons. Juve fans have endured enough false dawns in that time to be rightly cautious, but all the evidence points to this being the first tentative step forward of Andrea Agnelli’s project.

The first two Serie A games, against Bari & Sampdoria, as well as the Europa League game against Lech Posnan were filled with promise but ultimately disappointing, but today in Udine the result & performance were the clearest indication yet that this club is headed in the right direction.

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Right from kick-off there was a vibrant energy about Juventus as they ensured there would be no repeat of the poor starts of the last two matches. That determination was personified in Milos Krasic & Alessandro Del Piero who both played with real grit & purpose from the opening whistle.

The ex-Udinese contingent all shone on their return to the Friuli. Quagliarella was his usual effervescent self, Simone Pepe brought the drive & effort that was missing against Sampdoria while maintaining the same attacking poise, Vincenzo Iaquinta played as a true striker & Marco Motta had his best defensive display since arriving in Turin.

More than those performances however, credit here goes to three men heavily criticised last week, not least here on Il Tifosi. Felipe Melo put on the kind of display so rarely seen since his expensive move from Fiorentina, Claudio Marchisio not only scored but contributed to the overall display the way his biggest supporters know he can.

Then Gigi Delneri. Maligned for poor tactical choices & substitutions he certainly had the team organised today. Shortly after halftime Udinese had perhaps their most dominant spell, but Juve maintained their shape, shifted across & filled in for each other in an impressive display of the discipline the coach has been preaching since his arrival.

While all these points are supremely positive, & the game was a dominant display of power, grinta & skill of the new Juventus, it must be tempered by a realisation that this is the weakest team yet to face the Bianconeri. That Udinese are weaker still than the side which narrowly avoided relegation last season is clear & highlights the void between the two teams.

There should be no getting carried away at todays victory, but cliches about easy games are empty. Today it was vital the team won three points & they did so in impressive fashion. Now to see if it can be built into something meaningful.

Pagelle; Storari 6, Motta 6.5, Bonucci 7, Chiellini 6.5, Grygera 6, Krasic 8, Melo 6, Marchisio 7.5, Pepe 6.5, Del Piero 7, Quagliarella 7.5. Subs: Sissoko 6, Legrottaglie NM, Iaquinta 6 (Click to see ratings in full)

Lo Stadio Friuli di Udine: Thanks For The Memories

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Juventus travel to Udinese this week for their latest Serie A fisture, to be played at a stadium that holds more memories than most on the penninsula for fans of la Vecchia Signora. Last seasons 3-0 loss in the same stadium was undoubtedly the lowest point in a year that is best forgotten. So comprehensive was the defeat that it highlighted every deficiency of that team and its management, the realisation that the side had fallen so far was undeniable after such a loss.

But even that does not come close to two days spent at the Stadio Friuli which true Juve supporters will never forget. One is one of the saddest, the other a source of constant joy and laughter.

The first comes on November 8 1998. A 2-2 draw was played out, but the game was far from being the story. Alessandro Del Piero collapsed in pain clutching his knee and was stretchered from the field. Nobody present in Udine that day would realise until later just how serious that injury was. It would take nine months of hard work for the captain to be fit again and he would not feature for Juventus again until August 4 1999.

Of course he scored on his return but it took perhaps another year - some would argue it was much much longer - before he was anywhere near the player he was before that injury. The second memory needs no explanation to Juve fans, the date is all they need.

May 5 2002.

It was the first season of a new Juventus, with Gigi Buffon, Lillian Thuram and Pavel Nedved having all arrived following the sale of Zinedine Zidane. Inter were top of the table for much of the year and took a one point advantage into that final day of the season. They were playing away to Lazio while Juventus were once again at the Friuli. Clearly the Turin side needed to win and hope their rivals slipped. After ten minutes Del Piero and David Trezeguet had given Juve the lead, but Inter were winning too. Nobody in the stands was watching the game, everyone was desperate for news from Rome, radios and telephones were the order of the day.

Karel Poborsky inspired an improbable Lazio comeback, eventually winning 4-2 and famously leaving Ronaldo and Marco Materazzi in tears. Juventus had their 26th Scudetto win, their first in five seasons and it was all the sweeter for the manner in which it was won. Antonio Conte’s post-match interview is one of the all time classic Juventus moments, his sheer joy an indelible memory of this most unlikely triumph.

So no matter how this next match unfolds it will not come close to those memories, forever etched in the minds of Juventini. But as this new team comes together and perhaps secures its first win, Juventus will look once more to the Friuli, this time as the place it all began….

This Week In Black & White: Now Lets See You Win!

Juventus have started the season slowly in Serie A with a loss to Bari followed by the thrilling draw with Sampdoria this past weekend. There is a definite feeling of positivity about the new project & there were clear signs of improvement between the two matches.

These games were accepted by the majority of fans as important in helping the team grow & develop, coming as they did against two of last years better teams. The same cannot be said of the next two fixtures; Polish champions Lech Poznan travel to Turin in the Europa League on Thursday before Juve visit Udine on Sunday.

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One or two Juve players may know the way to Udine…

These two games represent the chance for this Juventus to develop a winning habit & that is exactly what they must do. With no disrespect intended to either side, both Lech Poznan & Udinese are teams that Juve must beat if they are to improve on last season.

Outside of Zibi Boniek & Janusz Michallik I know very little of football in Poland, but luckily Polish Football Scout came to the rescue on Twitter, passing on a few pieces of information.

Midfielder Dimitre Injać is back in their squad after getting a knock & the other players to watch for are Peszko, Rudnevs & Arboleda. They won 2-1 in Wrocław this past weekend but were apparently pretty average. Juventus may make a number of changes in this game, but taking three points & making the best possible start to the competition is essential to Delneri moving the team forward.

Then come Udinese, who narrowly avoided relegation last season. They survived on the back of Toto Di Natale’s 29 goals, but much of the team has changed since then. Obviously Juve took Simone Pepe & Gaetano D’Agostino went to Fiorentina, robbing the side of much of its creativity & attacking spark.

Another strange move in this summers mercato concerned Antonio Candreva. Having spent the second half of last season being poorly used by Alberto Zaccheroni he has now joined Sebastian Giovinco in going on loan to Parma. His probing & passing would have been an ideal replacement for D’Agostino.

In April Juve lost 3-0 at Udinese, a game which probably defined last seasons woes better than any other single performance & began the realisation of just how bad it was going to get. So poor was the performance the club was actually moved to apologise to the fans via the official site.

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We know Ale,  we know!

Juve need six points this week. Try these;

  1. There will undoubtedly be some rotation in these games, hopefully with no drop in quality - players like Legrottaglie & Lanzafame need to show their ability if given the opportunity.
  2. Central midfield will be of great interest, Aquilani must surely feature, Marchisio needs to build on his goal, Melo & Momo must prove they have the discipline to hold their position (but NOT at the same time, ever!)
  3. Iaquinta returned on Sunday & his fitness should be much improved by the end of these two fixtures. Add in the expected return of Amauri & the team finally has the prima punta so clearly missing so far this season.
  4. The players who made errors against Doria need to show they have learned from that experience - Motta & Bonucci in particular.
  5. The ex Factor. Pepe, Quagliarella, Iaquinta & Motta all return to their former home. A winning goal from any of them would be great!
  6. Coach Delneri. Most of these factors will fall back to the decisions he makes, particularly in terms of the starting line-ups. His work this week to improve the defence is also vitally important.

The improvements made in the early part of the season, from the Shamrock Rovers & Sturm Graz ties to the opening two Serie A games have been impressive. Now is the time to show that there can be some end product. Winning has always defined Juventus & it is time for this team to begin proving that once again.

Beppe Marotta: First Impressions Count

Following their disastrous season in 2009/10, Juventus moved quickly to make the best possible moves in order to ensure their swift return to the elite of both Italian and European football. Beppe Marotta’s arrival from Sampdoria was, along with Andrea Agnelli’s appointment as President, the most significant move made by the club since its 2007 return to Serie A.

As everyone knows, Luigi Delneri’s arrival as coach means the team will likely be fielded in a 4-4-2 formation, and immediately this meant the squad was ill-equipped to fulfill the tacticians requirements. The lack of width in attack was a constant issue last season, and the new set-up made addressing it even more pressing.

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With his right-hand man Fabio Paratici joining him from ‘Doria, Marotta immediately set about his task. His first signing told us much about both the way he operates, and the type of player this Juventus will target.

Simone Pepe, of Udinese, became the first signing of this new era. A player seemingly just on the cusp of the National team, hungry for success and recognition. These attributes, along with his age, still just 26, show a swift departure from the previous regime which saw too many aging, well-known veterans arrive, alongside expensive foreign imports. Young, gifted and Italian seems to be the mantra here.

But it is in the details of the transfer where Marotta’s ability truly reveals itself. Not only has he secured a talented winger, he has structured the deal in such a way that Juventus cannot lose. Paying just €2.6 million to secure a one year loan means the player will have to work hard and prove his quality in order to convince the club to exercise the option to make the deal permanent - an option Marotta has agreed for a further €7.5 million, spread over three years.

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A chance to see the player earn his move, a low fee and the luxury of spreading that fee over time is surely the equivalent of a hat-trick in the circles Marotta operates. He reinforced that view with similar moves for Catania’s Uruguayan winger Jorge Martinez, and a quality back-up goalkeeper in Milan’s Marco Storari who played under Delneri at Sampdoria last season.

More impressive moves for promising fullback Marco Motta (an identically structured hat-trick) and, most importantly Leonardo Bonucci will quickly improve on last seasons poor defence. Along with Giorgio Chiellini and Gigi Buffon, Juventus now have the pieces in place for Delneri to forge an impressive unit that can serve both club and country for a number of seasons.

It is now that for Marotta the real work arguably begins. With the needs reduced to perhaps another winger, a left back and a goalscorer, specific players must be targeted. In addition the squad is definitely far too big and a number of players will need to leave.


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This is where Alessio Secco was truly shown to be inadequate for the role. During his spell, not one sale that benefited Juventus was made. With David Trezeguet, Mauro Camoranesi, Zdenek Grygera, Jonathan Zebina and Fabio Grosso all surplus to requirements Marotta really has much work to do. There is also a list of players - Felipe Melo, Diego and Amauri among them - with whom the club would probably willing to part, but only at the right price.

It is perhaps in selling some or ideally all of these players - rather than securing further new arrivals - where Marotta will be ultimately jugged. Many are coming to the end of their careers, and on big contracts. and convincing them their future lies away from the grandeur and prestige of Turin will be far from easy.

He has made a great start to life at Juventus, but at the moment it is exactly that - a start. A man of Marotta’s intelligence will not rest on his laurels, nor believe the good press currently coming in his direction. His work can only truly be assessed at the end of the transfer window, until then all we can do is watch him work - and have faith Juventus now have the right man guiding them.

Official: Juventus Unveil Marco Motta & New Shirts

Juventus announced on the official website, just hours after unveiling their kits for the forthcoming season, the signing of Udinese’s Marco Motta. The 24 year old right back had been linked with a move to Turin for some time, with speculation growing after the Friuli club out-bid Roma following the expiration of their co-ownership deal.

Motta joins on loan for an initial fee of €1.25m, with an option to buy next summer set at €3.75 million, in a deal mirroring that of Simone Pepe who moved between the clubs in late June.

There remain a few details to finalise, but the fact the player has joined his teammates for pre-season training guarantees the move will be completed on Monday.

Benvenuto a Torino Marco!

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The new shirts were shown off by captain Alessandro Del Piero, Alex Manninger and Filippo Boniperti.