Coppa Italia: Quarter-finals / Team rating: 10 / Top scorer: Tevez (19)
Europe: Champions League group stage, Europa League semi-finals
Antonio Conte’s Juventus did what no-one at the club had managed to do in 80 years and win three consecutive Scudetti. Luca Cetta recaps another successful season for the Bianconeri.
A third Scudetto, won in record-breaking fashion, has etched Antonio Conte’s warriors into Juventus folklore. It proved a devastating Bianconeri side, one which swept away all challengers placed before them. The Old Lady defeated each one of its Serie A rivals, most both home and away. They were irresistible in front of the vocal Juventus Stadium support, winning every game – a League record.
Conte spoke at length in pre-season about the possibility of doing what no other Juventus side had done since the 1930s and win three Championships in a row. To continue the progression in Europe was also important, but the Coach’s primary focus was domestic.
While Conte talked of creating history, questions were asked about whether Juve would be motivated for another long haul. With a number of challengers – Napoli welcomed a number of new faces, Fiorentina strengthened and there were rebuilds at Inter and Roma – how would the Bianconeri fare? Gianluigi Buffon warned of the task ahead: “It won’t be easy to reclaim our title. In fact, this year will be even harder than the previous two.”
Their work in the transfer window went some way to alleviating those questions. They finally secured the ‘top player’ in attack when Carlos Tevez joined from Manchester City. Tevez showed he was up to the challenge ahead, taking the No 10 shirt left vacant by Alessandro Del Piero. “In truth I feel absolutely no pressure. I don’t think about the shirt number at all,” he quipped.
Giuseppe Marotta completed another shrewd piece of business in acquiring Fernando Llorente on a free transfer. “Our most important objective is to win a third consecutive title,” the new signing said. Angelo Ogbonna crossed the Turin divide to strengthen the defence. Making way were Alessandro Matri to Milan and Emanuele Giaccherini to Sunderland.
Juve started ominously, crushing Lazio in the Super Cup. An amazing six-minute spell in the second half had the Bianconeri four goals to the good by the hour mark and primed for the challenge ahead.
Tevez was on target in Rome and followed it up with a debut League goal, netting the winner against Sampdoria. Lazio were lambs led to the slaughter again, this time in Turin, a 4-1 result and Again the Argentine scored.
Juve’s winning start was halted by Inter, but they remained unbeaten until the Week 8 visit to Florence. Along the way were wins against Verona, Chievo, Torino and Milan. Not always convincing, but a near perfect start. However, it wasn’t enough to occupy top spot. In the early stages Juve had to contend with a record-setting Roma and the new-look Partenopei.
Further questions were asked following an astonishing afternoon on the banks of the River Arno. Juventus had not lost in Florence since 1998 and looked set to continue that run when Tevez and Paul Pogba scored. They may even have forged further ahead, but an amazing 15 minute spell washed away 15 years of purple pain. Giuseppe Rossi’s hat-trick and Joaquin’s goal inflicted a first defeat on the Champions.
Juventus recovered domestically, enjoying a long winning run, but attention turned to the faltering Champions League campaign. A stuttering start could not be recovered and amid a snowstorm and two-day affair with Galatasaray, Juve were eliminated. That was a failure, but the Bianconeri roared on in Serie A. From Fiorentina to the winter break Conte’s men won all nine matches, conceding just once. This included victory over Napoli, as Llorente started to get in on the scoring act.
That set up a New Year showdown with Rudi Garcia’s Roma. The previously unbeaten Giallorossi were brushed aside with an emphatic 3-0 result. If unbeaten Roma could not stand up to Juve, who would? Yet Conte wasn’t taking anything for granted. “I am only ever moderately satisfied until we achieve our targets, so this remains a stepping stone, but nothing definitive. There’s an entire second half of the season to go and we must do well.”
The Bianconeri showed their human side with draws at Lazio and Verona, but then returned to winning ways. Tevez sealed another Derby della Mole triumph, while he and Llorente were on target at gallant Milan. “These are three very important points, but we’ve got to be very careful,” Buffon noted, with Roma still within touching distance.
A series of slender triumphs followed, as Juventus mixed domestic duty with Europa League progress. Single-goal wins against Fiorentina, Genoa and Catania were matched by Juve’s passage to the last eight. These games were won through moments of individual brilliance, such as Andrea Pirlo’s sumptuous free-kick at Genoa. It led Conte to declare Juventus ‘50 per cent Champions of Italy’.
Their 22-game unbeaten run eventually came to an end against Napoli. The Stadio San Paolo continues to haunt Juve, now without a win there in 14 years. As they marched to the last four of the Europa League –only to be denied a home final by Benfica – wins against Livorno, Udinese, Bologna and Sassuolo put Juve within reach of that historic achievement they craved.
“I believe that a fundamental shift was the victory at Genoa with the last minute goal from Pirlo,” Giorgio Chiellini commented, “and then perhaps that win in Udine, because it was one of the last occasions in which Roma could have hoped we would drop points.”
In the end, they won it while watching on television. As Roma faltered in Catania, out came the champagne bottles in their Turin hotel. Juventus were crowned Champions even before taking the field against Atalanta. They finished the season with victories over the Bergamaschi, Roma and Cagliari.
Juve’s final tally of 102 points set a new record, breaking Inter’s 97-point mark from 2006-07. They also won 33 games this term, another record. It left Conte to honour his players: “These lads tore up records upon records and people will talk about this Juventus side for a long time to come.”
An incredible Juve, one which proved their domestic supremacy. As Andrea Barzagli summed up: “The first Scudetto? Surprising. Second? Confirmation. Third? Devastating.”
Antonio Conte stressed in pre-season his main aim was to create Juventus history. He wanted to match Carlo Carcano and the 1930s golden era and did just that. The former Bianconeri captain oversaw a dominant outfit and will look to lead them to greater heights next season and beyond.
The Argentine joined from Manchester City and was immediately hailed as the ‘top player’ Juventus had craved. He assumed responsibility of the No 10 shirt and lived up to the tradition of past greats with a fine season. Tevez has become a fan favourite thanks to his committed performances and goals.
- Juventus became the first team in Serie A history to win all home matches, completing a 19 from 19 Juventus Stadium clean sweep.
- With 102 points, Juventus not only broke the Serie A record for most points in a season, but also joined Real Madrid, Barcelona and Celtic in claiming more than 100 points in a term from major European leagues.
- Juve’s 12-game winning run from October through to January set a new club record for most consecutive victories.
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