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05 May 2013

Magnificent Juve cruise to Scudetto success

Out in front from the very start, Conte’s troops draw on all their character and determination to record back-to-back title triumphs

On the eve of the Bianconeri’s potentially title-winning fixture against Palermo, Antonio Conte took the opportunity to remind the gathered media of the “magnificent” achievement his side stood on the brink of completing.

In his eyes, many had started to take Juventus’ scintillating performances for granted. The performances of a team that, barely two years ago, limped to a second consecutive seventh-placed finish with a 2-2 draw against Napoli at the Stadio Olimpico.

Many had predicted more of the same when Conte swept through the gates of the club’s Vinovo training complex in May 2011, having been entrusted by Andrea Agnelli to restore the good times to Turin.

However, buoyed by the confidence of a new stadium and fresh impetus on the training ground, Juventus shook off their title of underdogs to push defending champions Milan all the way in an absorbing title race.

And after the Rossoneri slipped to a shock home defeat against Fiorentina, Conte’s men shifted into top gear and produced seven wins from their last eight games to lift a Scudetto that even the most staunch Juventus fan would have struggled to envisage.

Fast forward a year and the elegant piazzas of Turin are again awash with black and white shirts celebrating a Juventus title triumph. On paper, it may appear to have been a smoother ride to success, with the 11-point lead over closest contenders Napoli suggesting the Bianconeri were unburdened by the threat of a realistic challenger.

But in reality, as Conte correctly pointed out, this season has been anything but straightforward. The campaign, of course, began with the news that Juventus’ inspirational leader was to serve a four-month touchline ban.  

Yet in the face of adversity, the Bianconeri stood tall and sent out a message to the rest of the championship with August’s 4-2 Italian Super Cup victory over Napoli. Massimo Carrera and then Angelo Alessio proved exceptional deputies, before Conte resumed his rightful place in the dugout for a battling 1-0 triumph over Palermo.

The team, now also tasked with negotiating their way out of a tricky Champions League group, were forced, in Conte’s words, to “run on flat tyres”, but drew on all their character and determination to maintain their domestic supremacy whilst also threatening to upset the status quo in Europe.

Plenty of memories from the 2012/13 campaign will linger long in the hearts of supporters. None more so than the way in which the Bianconeri comprehensively dismantled defending European Champions Chelsea with a 3-0 win in Turin before topping Group E following December’s gutsy 1-0 triumph at Shakhtar’s Donbass Arena.

And, despite seeing this year’s European adventure end at the hands of a superb Bayern Munich outfit at the quarter-final stage, Conte’s men refused to let the initial disappointment derail their Scudetto charge, embarking on an incredible victorious streak which became eight consecutive games with this afternoon’s title-winning success over Palermo.

With a competitive first team squad, thriving youth academy and unquestionable stars of the future such as Paul Pogba recruited via a carefully planned transfer strategy, supporters have every reason to believe that these two consecutive title triumphs could just be the start of a golden era at the club.

A “magnificent” era, as Conte would say…