Football - ANALYSIS-Same old recipe works for Juventus

With most of their rivals mired in financial difficulties, Juventus had to do little more than repeat last year's recipe to retain the Serie A title.

Reuters

On the pitch, coach Antonio Conte's 3-5-2 system, masterminded by deep-lying playmaker Andrea Pirlo, once again proved superior to anything their rivals could come up with.

Off it, Juventus were by far the best organised of the leading Italian clubs, enjoying the huge benefit of playing in their own, modern stadium.

While their rivals pay to play in over-sized, wind-swept publicly-owned arenas which they rarely fill, Juventus enjoy passionate support at their compact stadium which is invariably packed despite its unpopular location on the outskirts of Turin.

Juventus also managed to hold on to the core of last season's title-winning team while their rivals were mired in the usual close-season wheeling and dealing.

Napoli, eleven points behind Juventus in second place after Sunday's games, put up a brave fight but the pre-season departure of Ezequiel Lavezzi to Paris St Germain left them over-dependent on Edinson Cavani in attack.

Although the Uruguayan is Serie A top scorer with 26 goals, he suffered a dry spell in February and March which caused Napoli's challenge to falter badly.

AC Milan were always going to struggle after holding a sale of their top players to help balance the books and never recovered from a dreadful start, despite the addition of Mario Balotelli in January.

Inter at one stage looked as if they would give Juventus a run for their money, putting together a seven-match winning streak which included a 3-1 win at the Juventus stadium.

That was as good as it got for Inter, who were hit by so many injuries that coach Andrea Stramaccioni said their season was cursed.

Udinese, third last season, were shattered by their Champions League playoff defeat by Bragaand and were never going to in contention after selling their top players for the second close season in a row.

With their rivals fielding weakened squads, Juventus just needed to carry on where they left off last season and although they were not quite as consistent, they were more than good enough.

SOLID DEFENCE

The trio of Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci, backed by talismanic goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, proved rock solid, conceding 20 goals in 35 games.

Pirlo has found a second wind at Juventus, producing some superb performances, while the versatile Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal has been almost as influential alongside him.

The 20-year-old Paul Pogba, signed from Manchester United, showed enough potential to suggest that he could blossom into an eventual replacement for Pirlo.

While Juventus cannot afford a world-class striker, Conte's rotation policy of fielding any two from Fabio Quagliarella, Sebastian Giovinco, Mirko Vucinic and Alessandro Matri in attack made up for that.

The goals have been evenly distributed with Vucinic netting nine times, Quagliarella eight, Giovinco and Matri seven each and Vucinic nine.

The two-pronged strike force has been an interesting aspect of Juventus, with the forwards pulling defenders wide as they run on to Pirlo's probing passes, opening up space for the midfielders behind them.

Vidal, with 10 goals, and Marchisio, with eight, have both thrived in the openings which have been created.

"This season we started out as favourites and winning was still a great achievement," said Buffon.

"It wasn't easy to maintain the standard but we are winning this scudetto unequivocally as we were led from start to finish. Antonio Conte is the right man for Juventus and he proved it."

Pirlo added: "It is the scudetto of consistency. The team did something extraordinary last year and it is never easy to keep yourself at that level.

"It wasn't a surprise for me. We put so much hunger and hard work into our daily schedule, so that sacrifice was the key to reach this great objective."

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