Juventus
    01.11.2013 21:55 - in: Serie A S

    Parma in the spotlight

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    Juventus.com takes an in-depth look at the team Antonio Conte’s men will line up against tomorrow evening

    Club

    Famous for the traditional cross on their shirt, Parma are a well-supported club who are celebrating their centenary this year and have become strong rivals with Juventus after battling them in a total of six cup finals during the late 1990s and early 2000s.

    The Emilia Romagna-based club was originally founded in 1913 as Verdi Foot Ball Club as a homage to Giuseppe Verdi, renowned opera composer and distinguished son of the province of Parma.

    Perhaps because the town’s rugby and volleyball sides were more popular at the time, Parma’s football team were not instantly successful following their league debut in 1919 and eventually went down to Serie C at the beginning of the 1935/36 campaign.

    The Court of Parma declared the club liquidated in 1968 following financial turmoil, but this in fact turned out to be the point of departure for a steady rise through the ranks of Italian football.

    Promoted to Serie C in 1970, the Gialloblu went up to Serie B soon afterwards in 1973. 

    And in 1990 they made a momentous return to Serie A under new manager Nevio Scala, who led them to the decisive 2-0 win over A.C. Reggiana in the Derby del Grana (named after the type of hard cheese produced in the Parma area which Parmesan is a famous example of).

    Scala went on to guide the team to their first major honour as they beat none other than Juventus 2-1 on aggregate to seal a 1991/92 Coppa Italia win.

    And thanks to investment from parent company Parmalat, the team continued to break new ground, lifting their first European title – the Cup Winners’ Cup – in 1993 at Wembley.

    But it was new manager Carlo Ancelotti who led them to their best ever league position: runners-up in the 1996/97 season thanks to the brilliant performances of future Juve trio Gigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro and Lilian Thuram.

    Following his departure, Alberto Malesani took up the mantle and didn’t disappoint, delivering a cup double in his first season with a Coppa Italia victory over Fiorentina and UEFA Cup triumph against Marseille.

    In 2000, star striker Hernan Crespo was sold to Lazio for a world-record fee and, despite picking up a third Coppa Italia title in 2002 (against now familiar final opponents Juventus), Parma began to experience a dip, finishing outside the top six in the league that season for the first time since their promotion 12 years ago.

    A second period of financial insolvency in 2004 led to Claudio Ranieri’s men battling to avoid relegation, eventually succumbing to the drop in 2008.

    The Gialloblu bounced back the following season, though, and have consistently pulled off solid mid-table finishes in recent campaigns.

    Stadium

    The 23,045 capacity Stadio Ennio Tardini, more commonly known as Il Tardini, is the ground where Parma can be seen running out for their home games.

    The inspiration had come from contemporary French and German stadia when it was built in its original oval shape in 1923 (before which time the club had no fixed home), but it now has a more English-style look.

    The Tardini has hosted five Azzurri matches in the past, the most recent of which was a 2012 friendly against France played in memory of the 24 people killed by an earthquake near to the city of Parma, but it is not currently eligible to host competitive international games due to seat backrests that do not meet UEFA Standards.

    On 21 December 2012, it was also chosen as the neutral location for a Serie A match between Juventus and Cagliari due to the Sardinians’ home ground being unavailable.

    Besides football, in 1989 it was the venue for the 9th Italian Superbowl played between American football teams Seamen Milano and Frogs Legnano.

    Transfer activity

    Antonio Cassano, who joined this summer from Inter, is a signing which reveals high ambition from the club. Undoubtedly hugely talented but often plagued by a mercurial temperament, if manager Roberto Donadoni can get the best out of him he looks set to be the side’s talisman.

    Also arriving is Italian right-back Mattia Cassani on loan from Fiorentina. A product of the Juventus academy without ever featuring for the first team, he didn’t manage to cement a starting berth for the Viola but did play consistently during his five-year stay at Palermo and is both versatile and experienced.

    Parma fans will no doubt have been pleased to see a permanent contract given to Marco Parolo, one of the team’s strongest performers last season and scorer of five goals already this campaign. 

    Playing alongside Parolo in the midfield this year will be Walter Gargano, a member of the surprise-package Uruguay team that finished fourth in the 2010 World Cup and now on loan at Parma for the season from Napoli. 

    In terms of transfers out, the Gialloblu will perhaps have been sad to see Ishak Belfodil move to Inter given the eight goals he scored for them last season.

    Elsewhere, Graziano Pelle has moved to Feyenoord after failing to excell in Serie A but producing an incredible goalscoring return of 37 goals in 38 games whilst on loan at the Dutch club last season.

    Current team

    The most intriguing prospect in the Parma side this season is Antonio Cassano. He has real star quality (as early big-money moves to Roma and then Real Madrid from Bari prove), but he has always been something of an enigma. With four goals this season, though, his form is speaking for itself and he is now just two away from 100 in Serie A.

    As well as Cassano and Parolo, two danger-men identified by Antonio Conte in his pre-match press conference are Amauri and Jonathan Biabiany. 

    The former, an ex-Juve striker, hasn’t managed to find the target in sixteen league games but has scored 17 in total for the club over his two spells there. The latter is a French midfielder who possesses unbelievable speed and will be a definite threat.

    Manager

    Parma are led by Roberto Donadoni, a right-winger in his former playing days who was a key member of the famous Milan team of the 1990s and also starred as one of the pioneers of the MLS with MetroStars.

    After short spells as coach of Lecco, Livorno, Genoa and then a longer two-year period in the Livorno hotseat, he became manager of the Italian national side he made 63 appearances for as a player. 

    His predecessor - World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi (who had retired from the job after the 2006 triumph) - was always going to be a difficult act to follow, and sure enough Donadoni came under pressure from the media after a shaky start to Euro 2008 qualification. 

    He led the team successfully to the tournament in the end, but after a disappointing campaign in which the the Azzurri went out in the quarter finals he was dismissed from his post. 

    After a brief stint at Napoli and a year at Cagliari, he took the reins of Parma in January 2012, a critical time because the Gialloblu were deep in a relegation battle. 

    But he worked wonders, and thanks to much improved results that included a streak of seven wins in a row he eventually managed to take them to an impressive eighth position in the Serie A table.

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