Time to play the Conte way against Bayern

Posted by Mina Rzouki

Against Bayern Munich last Tuesday night, Juventus were criticised for playing their worst ever match under current coach Antonio Conte. On Wednesday night, they will have to play their best ever match should they hope of qualifying for the semifinals. Is it possible? The Italians believe it is.

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They have done it before. Against Real Madrid in 2003, Juventus lost the first leg and won 3-1 in Turin to progress at the expense of the Spaniards. Of course, at that time, the Old Lady could count on the might of Pavel Nedved. Now she's forced to do without her two hungriest (read dirtiest if you live in the UK) players: Arturo Vidal and Stephan Lichtsteiner.

Yet despite the lack of experience and being betrayed by her two champions in the first leg, the Old Lady can still count on quality and hunger within the squad. What fans witnessed in the Allianz Arena was not the real Juventus but a poor imitation of the Italian side. Absorbed by fear, undone by inaccuracy and forced to surrender to asphyxiating pressure, the Bianconeri were torn apart by German power.

Conte erred in his decision to play with two forwards. Playing without a bolstered midfield and without the physical players capable of bullying their way to the final third allowed the Bavarians the opportunity to play with ferocity.

Little homework was done prior to the match. There was no clear tactical strategy to help the squad neutralise the threat of Bayern's winged attack. Meanwhile, no tactics were put in place to find a way of bypassing the Bavarians' pressing game -- arguably the reason behind their domestic success this season. Conte’s men were reliant on the long ball strategy that epically failed due to the superior aerial strength of the German defence.

The necessary substitutions were made too late in the game and only after Juventus had conceded their second. Immediately, one noticed the impact of having Mirko Vucinic and Sebastian Giovinco on the pitch. The duo's mobility and ability to drop deep, partake in midfield and push forward offered Juventus a sliver a hope but it was too little too late.

Thankfully on Wednesday night, Vucinic will start even if Conte will have to do without the injured Giovinco. With Paul Pogba likely to start in midfield and Kwadwo Asamoah predicted to start on the left, Juventus will be physically better prepared and ought to boast more mobility in attack. Should Andrea Pirlo be marked out of the game then Pogba will be on hand to offer an alternative.

While the Bianconeri may boast few world-class champions, they do boast a beautifully assembled group that work well together to produce fluid and aesthetically pleasing football. Now is the time to demonstrate the impact of teamwork. There is no time for lethargy; it’s time to go back to Conte's basics. The team must play at 200kmph, press constantly and run relentlessly.

Bayern always know how to pierce a defence thus the idea of absorbing pressure only to then counter-attack will not work. The Germans must be run at, the defence must be tested and power has to be exerted. In the words of J.R. Ewing (if you ever were a Dallas fan(!)) "No one gives you power, you have to go and take it."

While we have spent a week laughing off the notion of German efficiency considering how many opportunities both Borussia Dortmund and Bayern spurned last week in their respective Champions League matches, Juve are still the most profligate side left in the competition. Thirty-one shots at goal and Juventus only managed to break the deadlock after being awarded a penalty against Pescara on Saturday afternoon. The Delfini have Serie A's worst attack and worst defence and yet they still managed a goal despite playing with only ten men and having only two shots on target. Should the Old Lady have any chance of progressing further in this competition, she must rediscover her clinical edge in front of goal in the match against the Bavarians.

Bayern Munich were of course crowned Bundesliga champions on Saturday night when they defeated Eintracht Frankfurt to claim their 23rd league title. The dazzling display of hero Bastian Schweinsteiger was enough to get the win leaving them relaxed and eager to defeat Juventus and perhaps go on to claim their second trophy of the season.

The match is Bayern's to lose. However, there is no better way to end this piece than with the words of the legend Omar Sivori. "You always have to fight and when it seems that all is lost, keep believing, Juve never gives up."

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