Turin, Italy: Juventus are likely to need a shake-up at some point this season if they are to mount a serious challenge in the Champions League this season.
New coach Massimiliano Allegri has so far left well alone after inheriting a team which won three successive Serie A titles under his predecessor Antonio Conte, who is now in charge of the Italian national side.
Greeted with suspicion and even hostility by Juventus fans when he was appointed in July, the former AC Milan coach is treading carefully as he finds his way at his new club. In fact, it was hard to believe that there had been any change at all during the 2-0 win over Swedish champions Malmo in the Champions League on Tuesday, where they only new face were Allegri himself and Patrice Evra.
The two-man strike force was still there, featuring Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente, as was the three-man triangle in the centre of midfield and the two wide players on each flank. Even the three-man defence, which many felt would be the first thing to go under Allegri, was still intact, with Martin Caceres replacing the injured Andrea Barzagli alongside old favourites Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini.
So far, it has worked well enough and Juventus have won their first three games of the season without conceding a goal, against Chievo, Udinese and Malmo on Tuesday. Allegri has also coped comfortably with the absence of playmaker Andrea Pirlo, slotting Claudio Marchisio into the central midfield role, and the dynamic Arturo Vidal. But whether it can all last is a different matter.
After leading Juventus to the Serie A title with a record 102 points last season, Conte made it clear that the team had peaked and needed a significant shake-up. Having initially agreed to stay on, he suddenly quit in mid-July, shortly after the club had failed to secure the services of Chile forward Alexis Sanchez.
Juve’s summer signings were surprisingly low-key, headed by 21-year-old Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid who yet to start a game after suffering a knee injury during a summer training session. Allegri`s team has yet to be seriously tested this season and their patchy display against Malmo, despite an outstanding two-goal performance by Tevez, left a sense that something was lacking. Too many passes went astray, promising moves lacked the final touch and Paul Pogba, who is seen as Pirlo`s natural heir, showed only exasperating flashes of his sublime skills.
"I think the team did moderately well, but has the quality to do a lot better," said Allegri, whose phlegmatic style could not be more different to the fiery Conte.
"European games are completely different to in Serie A," he added. "You saw Liverpool struggling to beat Ludogorets Razgrad. These are more physical matches and, though we did well to not allow Malmo any chances apart from that early one, we needed to stay calm and not get hasty in the desire to score a goal."
"I asked Carlos to play a bit deeper so that Llorente would stretch their defence a bit more," he added. "We found more space with Lichtsteiner, but at times we went too narrow."
"We were disorganised in the first half but we moved the ball around better in the second...As time goes on the mental and physical strain will have an effect, so we will need everyone to maintain the intensity."