How did they qualify?
Juve strolled to a fourth consecutive Serie A title last season to secure another season in Europe’s top competition. Whilst not quite as dominant as 2013/14 – a campaign which saw them finish with 102 points – the Turin club still finished 17 points ahead of their nearest rivals, Roma. They lost just three games, scored a league-high 72 goals and conceded just 24 in their 38 games – the Old Lady were a class apart in Italy again. They will have to cope without Andrea Pirlo (who is enjoying a swansong in New York), Arturo Vidal, now at Bayern Munich, and mercurial striker Carlos Tevez – last season’s top scorer has returned to Argentina with Boca Juniors.
Record in Europe:
The Italian giants are traditionally seen as European heavyweights, and for good reason. They have won the Champions League twice – once when it was the European Cup in 1984/85 and then when a side including Alessandro Del Piero and Gianluca Vialli won the competition in 1995/96. More recently, Juve reached the final of last season’s competition, seeing off Borussia Dortmund, Monaco and Real Madrid before succumbing to Barcelona in Berlin. Last season’s run was their best in the competition since 2002/03, and signalled to the rest of Europe that Juve are ready to compete on the grandest stage again. The Old Lady also have three UEFA Cups to their name, meaning their European pedigree is second to none in this group.
Who’s the boss?
With a league title, a first Coppa Italia win in 20 years and a run to the Champions League Final, it’s fair to say Massimiliano Allegri enjoyed a successful debut season in the Juventus hotseat. Allegri had big shoes to fill following on from Antonio Conte’s success, but the former AC Milan boss stepped seamlessly into the job and ensured that the Old Lady will continue to dine at Europe’s top table. A journeyman as a player, Allegri won Serie A coach of the year having guided Milan to the 2010/11 title and also gained praise for his work at Cagliari two years previously when he led the provincial also-rans to the verge of Europa League qualification.
How they’ll play:
Since his Cagliari days, Allegri has prided himself on attacking football – and with the players at his disposal in Turin he has been able to stick to those principles. It is all built on solid foundations, however, thanks to the defensive talents of Giorgio Chiellini and Martin Caceres in the heart of their back four. The mean defence now has Sami Khedira protecting them following the Germany international’s summer move from Real Madrid, and fellow new signings Hernanes and Mario Mandzukic will ensure that the Italians carry a serious threat at the other end of the pitch.
For all of Juve’s impressive new signings, it is impossible to look past Paul Pogba as their star man. In an era where central midfielders tend to be pigeon-holed as either holding players or ‘in-the-hole’ playmakers, Pogba is a refreshing throwback. The France international is a box-to-box player capable of breaking up attacks at one end and barnstorming runs at the other, whilst his thunderous shot guarantees a couple of screamers a season. The former Manchester United man has been at the heart of the Italian side for the past few seasons, and now that his midfield partners Pirlo and Vidal have departed there is an even greater onus on the 22-year old; responsibility that he is likely to thrive upon.