Dec 9, 2012, 1:56 PM EST
Juventus coach Antonio Conte may have returned from his four-month suspension to a slightly better team than the one he left in May, but for 90 minutes in Palermo, the Old Lady reclaimed their 2011-12 form. That’s not a good thing. Although Juventus was undefeated en route to their 28th Serie A title, they drew 15 times, often relying on opportunism and game management in place of control. In a year in which Fiorentina, Inter, Milan, Napoli, and Roma all took steps backs (or outright struggled), a draw-heavy season was enough to take the league.
That form returned today as Juventus played out a lackluster 1-0 win in Sicily. Stephan Lichtsteiner broke through for the league leaders in the 50th minute, with Juve having their win assured when Palermo went down a man in the 75th minute. Though Juventus dominated the match, they were unable to capitalize on the number of chances they created, a problem that lingers from last year.
Conte’s striking tandem perfectly exemplify Juve’s problems. Mirko Vucinic has the talent to be an automatic selection, but during his year-plus in Turin, the former Roma attacker never been able to replicate the numbers he put up in the capital. Vucinic came into today’s match with only two goals, which (unfortunately for Juve fans) were one more than his strike partner. Alessandro Matri’s inclusion continues to confuse supporters, particularly when a player like Fabio Quagliarella and his team-leading six goals may be looking for a new home in January if scoring goals can’t win more playing time.
Despite the lack of production from their strikers, Juventus had looked better this year. Though they’d already lost twice (vs. Inter Milan, at Milan) they were scoring more goals, winning more games, and were leaving fewer matches vulnerable to the type of bounces that cost them points last season. Carrying their form over into Champions League (where they won a group that featured Shakhtar Donetsk and Chelsea), Juventus looked more like a continental power than a mere domestic one. They’d taken a step forward.
In recent weeks, though, Juve’s quality had become more inconsistent. A 3-0 win over Chelsea two weeks ago was a high point, but since, they’ve only scored multiple goals in one of four games: a Dec. 1 home game against Torino were they played most of the match against 10 men. Combined with today’s performance against Palermo, the run provides more evidence that Juventus may be slipping back into their old ways.
It’s worth asking if that’s a bad thing. They did, after all, win the league playing things close to the vest. But there is the feeling that such performance is unsustainable. When Juventus lost the Coppa Italia final to Napoli last year (their only loss of the season), nobody was shocked. The feeling was more “at last” than surprise. If Juventus were to carry that same form (or, approach) into the 2012-13 season, Napoli and Inter might like their chances of taking the scudetto.
That’s why, despite Juve fans’ relief at Conte’s return, Sunday’s result might be of some concern. This was last year’s Juve, not the only that confidently played their way to an early gap atop Serie A. If that time without Conte on the sidelines proves to an an exception to the Old Lady’s danger-tempting rule, Juventus’s competitors may not be so concerned with Conte’s return.
Dec 19, 2013, 10:01 PM EST
Simple, cheap, and already in wide use. Giving the okay to vanishing spray was an obvious choice.
Dec 19, 2013, 8:54 PM EST
SI.com tabs the NBC studio host as this year’s best newcomer.
Dec 19, 2013, 7:33 PM EST
Six serious injuries but no casualties resulted tonight’s near-miss in Bekal.
Dec 19, 2013, 6:39 PM EST
U.S. Soccer’s 56-member panel as selected the program’s Best XI to celebrate the federation’s centennial.
Dec 19, 2013, 4:49 PM EST
Bluebird ownership is pushing the Scottish boss out the door, with a Monday email leaving Mackay’s departure practically inevitable.
Dec 19, 2013, 3:34 PM EST
The Western Conference champs kept it in-house, ensuring the team’s core philosophies will be in place come 2014.
Dec 19, 2013, 2:40 PM EST
With a victory, Liverpool will climb to the top of the Premier League table.
Dec 19, 2013, 2:00 PM EST
“My only conclusion is you have a business guy operating the club who knows absolutely nothing about football,” Rodgers said.
Dec 19, 2013, 1:20 PM EST
“It’s important to continue in the direction I set out on, which is to be in Europe,” Bradley said.
Dec 19, 2013, 12:10 PM EST
Might Google be the next big player in the battle for soccer broadcast rights? John Ourand thinks so.
Dec 19, 2013, 11:20 AM EST
The Football Association chairman Greg Dyke says Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere needs to grow up a bit.
Dec 19, 2013, 10:32 AM EST
While supporters and neutrals alike can’t help but dream of a March 2nd all-Manchester final, Jonny Evans is staying grounded.
Dec 19, 2013, 9:42 AM EST
So don’t let Rodgers’ passiveness fool you. Liverpool is pressing to lock Suarez down until kingdom come.
Dec 19, 2013, 9:01 AM EST
Go ahead and cross Andres Iniesta’s name off your club’s holiday wish-list.
Dec 19, 2013, 8:20 AM EST
“This is very bad for the team but there are a lot of players who want to play,” Dzeko said.
Dec 18, 2013, 11:39 PM EST
Chelsea has a problem. They must. The solution, however, is harder to find.
Dec 18, 2013, 9:56 PM EST
Two games or one? Arsenal’s going to make the case for the lighter punishment, according to Wednesday’s reports.
Dec 18, 2013, 8:51 PM EST
Donovan’s goal may have been the favorite, but Wambach’s goal won U.S. Soccer’s tournament.
Dec 18, 2013, 7:57 PM EST
You need this to keep up – because this has been a period of managerial transition like none other in Major League Soccer:
Dec 18, 2013, 7:05 PM EST
He gets a mulligan on a 2013 that went all kinds of wrong:
- Hamm, Wambach, Morgan lead U.S. Soccer’s all-time women’s best XI (but no Solo, Milbrett) 8
- Manchester derby in cards for League Cup final 1
- Brendan Rodgers cool on re-signing Luis Suarez to a new deal 2
- Abby Wambach’s 2011 goal against Brazil voted best moment in U.S. Soccer history 2
- Young’s blast, Evra’s insurance see Manchester United into League Cup semifinals 0
- Late Jarvis, Maiga goals see West Ham past Tottenham, into League Cup semifinals 2
- Report: Clint Dempsey will join Fulham on Jan. 1 for two-month loan (12)
- Spurs in hunt for new boss after sacking Andre Villas-Boas (10)
- Hamm, Wambach, Morgan lead U.S. Soccer’s all-time women’s best XI (but no Solo, Milbrett) (9)
- Mexico’s Monterrey dumped out of FIFA Club World Cup (7)
- Eddie Johnson to D.C. is happening: What this means for Seattle, United (7)
- Hodgson's Manaus Plan is Flawed
- Wilmer Cabrera on WC Draw: ''It's an Even Group''
- Germany Building Training Facility in Brazil
- Spain Thinking of US Camp Before World Cup
- Don't count out Chile in WC Group B
- Kicking it Off with a Final
- VIDEO: Visa World Cup Promo
- Aurelien Collin: I Think France is Very Very Happy
- Klinsmann Shouldn't Have Been Re-signed Before WC
- You Can't Beat German Sachlichkeit