“It’s not a good situation for my coronary arteries!” was the reaction of Antonio Conte following the 2-0 win over Novara on Sunday. Despite yet another Bianconeri victory, Conte was critical of the performance, citing domination of possession as positive, yet wastage of numerous chances continues to be the Achilles heel of his side. Simone Pepe’s early strike set the tone for the clash, but tifosi were made to wait until the 74th minute for a second. A fine header from Fabio Quagliarella was the striker’s first goal since 19 December 2010. Should Juventus harbour hopes of a title challenge this season, can they continue to be so wasteful in front of goal, especially with a daunting trip to Udinese ahead?
A solitary game separates Conte’s men from being crowned the ‘winter champions’. However, it doesn’t come much more difficult than a trip to the Stadio Friuli. Udinese have something in common with Manchester City that the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich do not. They have a 100% perfect home record so far this season, with seven wins from seven, 14 goals scored and just two conceded. Aside from the trips to San Siro and the San Paolo, this ultimately represents the biggest test of the first half of Juve’s season. If they escape unscathed with their unbeaten record intact, depending on Milan’s result they would remain top heading into the festive and new-year period. We’re now fifteen games deep into the season, are we looking at the makings of the new ‘Invincibles’ or will their wastefulness in front of goal come back to haunt them sooner rather than later?
Chievo ace Alberto Paloschi recently grumbled that ‘you start 1-0 down against Udinese because Di Natale scores a goal every time’. While the Milan loanee slightly exaggerates his assessment of the Azzurri hit-man, Toto will be looking to add to his 10 strikes so far this season, as he continues his quest to bag a hat-trick of Capocannoniere awards. Recent history would suggest optimism would be rife within the camp after the 4-0 thrashing of their opponents at the start of last season. Goals from Quagliarella, Marchisio, Iaquinta and a Coda own-goal sealed the Bianconeri’s first win of the season last term, but how things have changed for both sides since. The Zebrette are a completely different proposition, while the same can be said of Conte’s Juve. Despite the loss of the likes of Zapata, Inler and Sanchez in the summer, it is truly incredible the job that Francesco Guidolin has achieved so far this campaign. In the last five meetings, Udinese have won three while Juve have two wins, and you’d have to go back to March 2004 for the last time these two played out a draw! Expect a very tense atmosphere come Wednesday night.
Il Mister was in rather jovial mood despite his criticism following the Novara win, claiming Gigi Buffon to be the best goalkeeper in the world, and rightly so considering ‘he needs to justify his wages!’ Transfer rumours begin to circulate ahead of the January transfer window, one of which has linked former Bianconero Martin Caceres with a return to Turin. “Do I like Caceres? I prefer women,” joked the tactician. While Stephan Lichtsteiner continues to defy the laws of stamina down the right hand side, many argued Paolo De Ceglie was a weak-point as he stepped into the left-back berth. While Giorgio Chiellini valiantly fills that position, it is surely beyond question that he is far more comfortable and assured in the heart of the defence. Conte continues to rotate his strikers, denying claims that he feels uncomfortable fielding certain partnerships.
If there are weaknesses within the squad, what do you feel they are and which individuals should be potential targets next month? Can Juve rely on the midfield maestro that is Andrea Pirlo to continue to provide the goods until next May, or is there/should there be a vice-Pirlo, i.e. a Plan B?
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