[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ntonio Conte’s decision to walk away from Italian champions Juventus in the summer after three imperious years in charge had alarm bells ringing in Turin.
The former Bianconeri midfielder was responsible from turning the Old Lady from a floundering outfit into Serie A’s undoubted dominant force, winning three Scudetti consecutively for the historic club.
Juve’s dominance over the rest of Italian football under Conte was palpable, with fear amongst the outfit’s fans that the orchestrator’s departure could well see the club relinquish its stranglehold over the domestic game.
The choice of the now Azzurri head coach’s successor was one not to be taken lightly, however the Turin giants wasted little time appointing ex-AC Milan boss Massimiliano Allegri as their new manager.
The early days of the 2014-15 campaign suggested that any potential for Juventus to become complacent was not present, as the reigning champions continued where they had left off under new stewardship.
Allegri caused a few raised eyebrows with his decision mid-campaign to ditch the Bianconeri’s tried-and-tested three-man defence and revert to a back four, but this tactical switch has proved a masterstroke by maximising the potential of Juve’s star-studded midfield.
However, the acid test to gauge whether the new boss could take the club to the next level would come on the continent – an area where Conte could not replicate Juventus’ domestic dominance.
The 45-year-old only took Juve on two European campaigns; firstly progression to the quarter-finals saw the Italians brought down to earth by Bayern Munich, while last term the Bianconeri were eliminated in the group stages after losing in the snow against Galatasaray.
The gauntlet had been thrown down.
Allegri’s side displayed some excellent and ordinary performances in the group stages to progress to the knockout rounds at the expense of a passionate Olympiakos outfit.
The round of 16 draw saw the Italians partnered with a seasoned Borussia Dortmund outfit and their respective domestic problems.
However, after winning the first leg at home 2-1, despite not being able to call on the talismanic presence of Andrea Pirlo and Paul Pogba getting injured before the half-hour mark, Juve silenced Signal Iduna Park with a comprehensive 3-0 victory in Germany.
The draw for the quarter-finals has been kind to the Serie A outfit, with a clash against Monaco certainly a tie that the Italians will be vastly confident of winning.
The Principality outfit may well have stunned Arsenal in the last round, but man-for-man Juventus have more than enough quality to make the final four of the competition this term – all in Allegri’s first season in charge.
With a comfortable 14-point lead at the top of Serie A and a Coppa Italia semi-final second leg against Fiorentina to play, it looks set to be another fantastically successful season for the Turin giants.
Although not many would back the Bianconeri to stop the onrushing juggernauts that Bayern Munich or Barcelona currently comprise, it is clear that the departure of Conte has not inhibited progress.
Allegri’s work at Milan, where he fought against the rising tide of financial constraint and dwindling player quality, was not entirely appreciated but is now evident given the San Siro outfit’s current woes.
With silverware afoot in Turin and participation in the final reaches of the Champions League, Allegri has surely won over his doubters and returned Juventus to their place within Europe’s elite.
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