Antonio Conte says he is plotting to banish the Bianconeri’s Tardini hoodoo by guiding his men to a first away win over Parma as Juventus manager.
Despite tasting victory on both occasions the Gialloblu have travelled to Turin in the past two years, Juve have been unable to apply their winning touch in Emilia-Romagna, recording back-to-back draws at a notoriously challenging venue.
And with Saturday evening’s hosts boasting a three-match winning streak in front of their own fans, including a recent 3-2 triumph over Milan, Conte knows his men will have to be on their mettle if they are to emerge with all three points.
Addressing reporters in Vinovo, the 44-year-old began: “It will be a difficult game on a tough pitch where we’ve only managed to draw in the last two years. We’ll be up against a Parma who have strengthened considerably since last season. They’ve got Cassano, a great talent who has gone there to improve his chances of making the World Cup squad, and can also count on other dangerous players such as Amauri, Biabiany and Parolo. We need to be fully focused if we want to come away with the win.”
In spite of the undoubted threat provided by Roberto Donadoni’s charges, there remains plenty of room for optimism. Juventus approach the game in good form after rediscovering both their defensive stability and cutting edge with two clean sheets and six goals in their previous two Serie A fixtures.
The latest of these successes, Wednesday night’s 4-0 demolition of Catania, enabled them to trim the gap on league leaders Roma to just two points, only for the in-form Giallorossi to reestablish their supremacy by registering a record tenth successive Serie A victory in last night’s triumph over Chievo.
“Roma are doing extraordinary things. It’s not straightforward to win 10 consecutive games, not even the great sides of the past have managed such an achievement. Last year we were out in front and this time around we’re forced to do the chasing. This needs to serve as a motivation for us.”
As the Bianconeri work their way through another hectic period of domestic and European fixtures, Conte will be heartened by the news emerging from the treatment room, where Fabio Quagliarella and Sebastian Giovinco appear to be winning their battles to regain full fitness.
“Quagliarella has recovered, he had his second training session with the squad yesterday and is available again. Now we’re just waiting on Vucinic and Lichtsteiner. We’re facing this mini-cycle of games with big problems to deal with in the attacking department, but now we’re beginning to get over the worst, including Giovinco, who has recently been forced play with painkillers in order to relieve the discomfort in his foot.”
Having enjoyed rich success throughout his two years in the Juve hotseat, this week brought news of Conte’s nomination for FIFA Men's Football Coach of the Year award.
But whilst acknowledging his personal pride at being considered for such a prestigious title, Conte was keen to share the plaudits, first pointing to the “courageous” decision made by Andrea Agnelli in appointing a manager unproven in the top flight, before crediting his players for their part in restoring the club to its rightful place.
“It’s immensely satisfying for both myself and the club. The president made a courageous choice in hiring a manager who had won two Serie B titles but never previously coached in the top flight. I’m honoured to be included in the list of the world’s elite 10 managers and it’s a motivation for me to improve even further. It’s just a starting point for me, I’ve still got a long way to go. I’d also like to thank my players because it’s their achievements that have enabled me to be nominated.”
Conte’s close bond with his players was clear for all to see when this morning’s press conference concluded with a question posed by a journalist regarding Giorgio Chiellini’s tackle on Catania’s Sergio Bergessio on Wednesday night.
The defender immediately apologised for the accidental challenge on social networking site Twitter, insisting no malice was intended, and his apology was subsequently accepted with good grace by the Argentine frontman.
But despite the show of fair play from both parties, Conte was forced to spring to the player’s defence in response to suggestions that his action was “underhand”.
“Tough and underhand are two different terms. Giorgio is a player who strikers would never want to go up against. He’s a tough customer but at the same time a humble person who pays attention to the particulars. He’s one of the best defenders in the world and, being human, can make mistakes.
“I don’t accept the suggestion that he’s underhand, those who know him can vouch for his good, honest character. In the Catania game he went to win the ball but Bergessio beat him to it and took a heavy blow. It was an accidental challenge and if anyone says otherwise then I suggest they go and take another look at the footage.”