A suspended coach and a daunting draw that matches it against defending champion Chelsea has not dampened enthusiasm at Juventus. Heading into a meeting Wednesday at Stamford Bridge, the message on the club's official Website reads Europa, siamo tornati! Europe, we're back!
Optimism is much higher than it was four years ago, when Juve qualified as the third-place finisher in Serie A and lost to Chelsea in the knockout rounds. This time it is Serie A champion and unfazed by the suspension of Coach Antionio Conte for his role in a game-fixing scandal.
As did the Italian national team beset by scandal prior to the 2006 World Cup yet triumphant nonetheless, Juventus players believe they can set aside off-field issues. Its keeper, veteran international Gianluigi Buffon, led that World Cup effort and foresees a strong showing in the Champions League. "We are back in the competition from the main door," he says. "We deservedly won the league. We come in full of confidence and pride. We have all the will and determination to prove we can do well."
Conte's team features a 3-5-2 system that fluidly changes into a 3-3-4 when in possession with wingbacks, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Kwadwo Asamoah, anxious to get forward.