x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Conte sees chinks in Juventus' armour

A 49-game undefeated run coming to an end is no reason to panic but the suspended coach has the vision from outside for better insight.

Antonio Conte has had an outside view of Juventus's weak areas while serving suspension.
Antonio Conte has had an outside view of Juventus's weak areas while serving suspension.

Turin's Juventus Stadium suddenly looks less of a fortress. The Danes from Nordsjaelland, who play the Italian giants there tonight in the Uefa Champions League, may feel mildly emboldened by the fact this is now an arena where a visitor can come and record a victory, although at the back of their minds will also be the concern that they are first in line to face a backlash.

Juve's first league defeat in 49 matches, 3-1 to Inter Milan on Saturday, brought to an end a remarkable run, especially when you come to consider that it was achieved by a team who, 18 months ago, when they suffered their previous Serie A loss, were struggling to a seventh place finish in the 2010/11 Serie A campaign.

They then began the next season with Antonio Conte, a new, relatively inexperienced head coach, had an unfamiliar home to get used to - the Juventus Stadium only opened at the start of the 2011/12 campaign - and had been hampered a little in the transfer market because they could not offer some potential targets the promise of any European football.

Those who did arrive would end up with a league title which few had anticipated.

Despite Inter's impressive coup, the sharp manner in which Andrea Stramaccioni's team explored Juve's vulnerabilities and tempered their midfield strengths, there are no grounds for panic at Juve.

Conte's touchline suspension comes to an end next month, which will certainly ease his anxieties.

Conte has been disturbed by one or two traits he has detected during recent games from his distant viewpoint in broadcasting boxes or VIP seats and has felt impotent about correcting them.

He will hope to return to the technical area with his team still top of the table.

He will also want Juventus to be pushing for a place in the last 16 of the Champions League. Even before the ambush by Inter, there was an urgency around tonight's fixture.

In Europe, Conte's side enjoy an unbeaten record, but their three matches so far have all been draws, and with Chelsea and Shakhtar Donetsk in the same mini-league, that is potentially problematic.

Conte also wants more options up front, and has the support of the club's treasurers for the idea of bringing in a striker in the winter transfer window.

Enthusiasm for the tall Spaniard Fernando Llorente, of Athletic Bilbao, one of several targets during the summer with whom deals could not be reached, remains.

This record setting Juve have invention and intelligence in attack, from the likes of Sebastian Giovinco and Mirko Vucinic but look short of a high-class No 9.


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