Champions know how to suffer, champions know how to exploit and champions know how to grind out important victories. Juventus force one to indulge in hyperbole.
Not only have they broken a record by collecting 15 consecutive Serie A wins, but they are a team that suffered and toiled to inflict a 2-1 defeat on a Parma side that has not tasted a league loss since the reverse fixture in November.
Parma are having a tremendous season playing the type of football worthy of a place in Europe. Tactically disciplined, Roberto Donadoni’s men boast pace, the ability to work between the lines and players capable of making the difference. Most importantly, they are a side that work fluently and cohesively together meaning they are not dependent on any one player but on the team’s mental fortitude and organised game plan.
Having toyed with a 3-5-2 formation, Donadoni has focused on the 4-3-3 for much of the season. Tonight, as he did with Atalanta only a few weeks ago, he reverted to the 3-5-2 against Juventus in an attempt to have a foothold in midfield and not allow the Bianconeri midfielders the opportunity to overwhelm.
Organised and careful to close down spaces, the Ducali were quick to demonstrate the intelligence of their players. The particular characteristic of this side is their ability to create space for one another to exploit and it didn’t take long before their excellent movement in attack allowed Cristian Molinaro the opportunity to attempt a right footed shot that forced Gianluigi Buffon into action.
Yet, despite the impressive movements, Parma were guilty of making a few too many errors which one can never do against this Juve. The Old Lady knows how to make the most of her chances and it didn’t take long before Carlos Tevez held off Gabriel Paletta and shot from a tight angle to score the opener. As if that wasn’t opportunistic enough, the second goal came only seven minutes later when the Argentine punished Antonio Mirante for parrying the ball to score from the rebound.
From there on, it was difficult for the away side to do much. Heads dropped and they didn’t press high enough to cause the home side any distress thus allowing Juventus to effectively control the match.
However, the beauty of this Parma side is their mental fortitude. They are simply not a team that are willing to take a beating without giving a response. They started the second half with renewed enthusiasm and slowly but surely began to impose their style of play with Donadoni make a double change in the 60th minute.
Unfortunately for them, Amauri threw a spanner in the works. There must be something about Giorgio Chiellini’s face that provokes an elbow as for the second consecutive game, Juve’s opponents had a man sent off for elbowing the defender. Catania’s Gonzalo Bergessio twice elbowed the centre-back to eventually get sent off while Amauri, a former Bianconeri striker, was shown a straight red for leaning into his elbow.
Down to ten men, the Gialloblu still played with hope, fought for possession and made the right runs to penetrate effectively. In fact in the second half, they managed a higher number of accurate passes and more of them in the final third that created more chances from open play. If we were to assess the average position of each player on the pitch overall, Parma played with more men siting in front of the half-way line than Juventus. As Donadoni said, “If we put our characteristics at the forefront then we can cause anyone problems.” Indeed they can and they remained focused and determined until the end in hopes they could make the most of Juve’s exhaustion.
As for Juventus, what can one say about a side worthy of a symphony of compliments for the remarkable season they are having. It is true they suffered and failed to capitalise on the fact they played with an extra man for 25 minutes but there is only so much that can be expected from a side that is physically and mentally exhausted.
They are not only partaking in European competition as well as domestic games but they are facing Serie A sides desperate to make an impact against them. They are after all the most loved and hated side in Italy. Whether it’s Catania’s intimidation skills, Genoa’s relentless style of play or Parma’s effective tactics, it’s difficult to prepare, play and win all these matches. It’s a testament to both Antonio Conte and his men when one considers all their accomplishments, managing to break another record tonight: 15 consecutive home victories.
Up next is Napoli but sadly we wont be seeing Tevez flexing his goalscoring muscles after earning a yellow card that will see him suspended for the much anticipated match. Yet somehow the feeling is Juve will cope as they always do.