Juric the Gasperini protege | Football Italia

  Towards the end of last season, Hellas Verona were in a bad place. They had finally sacked Fabio Grosso, who despite having one of the strongest squads in Serie B, was struggling to mount any kind of genuine promotion challenge. In came Alfredo Aglietti, who performed a miracle to lead a lacklustre Gialloblu to promotion through the play-offs – only to be later dismissed.

  A little over a year later, Hellas, who were expected to go straight back down, have defied all expectations to sit firmly in mid-table, well away from the bottom three. The mastermind behind all of this is Aglietti’s replacement Ivan Juric, a protege of one of the most respected coaches in Europe, Gian Piero Gasperini. Though his road to Verona was an eventful one.

  Juric first met Gasperini during his playing career, when the latter was appointed as Crotone manager in 2003. Under Gasperini, the Calabrese would win promotion to Serie B and achieve their joint-highest ever league finish. When the Piedmont tactician was given the Genoa job in 2006, Juric followed, becoming a key part of the team that secured a return to the top-flight after an absence of eleven years.

  The Croatian would represent I Grifone for three more seasons before hanging up his boots in 2010. Shortly after, he set about starting his coaching career, studying for his badges and becoming assistant manager of Genoa’s Primavera team. Just a year later, Gasperini appointed him as his assistant at his new club, Internazionale.

  This was a clear indication of the excellent rapport between the two men and Gasperini’s recognition of Juric’s footballing intelligence and coaching potential. Gasperini didn’t last long at Inter and Juric followed him to his next club, Palermo, where they had two separate spells thanks to the trigger-happy nature of the owner at the time, Maurizio Zamparini.

  In 2013, Juric decided he was ready to forge his own managerial career. He returned to Genoa to manage their Primavera team for a season before moving to third-tier side Mantova. The Croatian had teething problems at the start of his spell at the Danilo Martelli, however, winning just one of his first 10 games, but would eventually lead them to a comfortable mid-table finish.

  Despite this inauspicious start to his coaching career, Serie B outfit Crotone would appoint him as their manager at the start of the 2015-16 season. The year before, I Pitagorici had finished just one point above the relegation places. With Juric at the helm – alongside a number of key additions including Alex Cordaz, Federico Ricci and Ante Budimir – Crotone would unexpectedly challenge for promotion to Serie A.

  They occupied one of the two automatic promotion spots for most of the season and ultimately won promotion to Serie A for the first time in their history. Naturally, Juric’s historic achievement would catch the attention of a bigger club and he wouldn’t remain at Crotone for their maiden season in the top-flight.

  In the summer of 2016, Gasperini, who had been back at Genoa for three seasons by that point, left the Luigi Ferraris to take charge of Atalanta. The stars were aligned. Juric was a promising, young coach who already knew the club well and possessed similar ideas to his mentor. Thus, he became Gasperini’s replacement at Genoa.

  To say his time at Genoa was chaotic would be an understatement. His first spell lasted less than a year; sacked in February 2017 after a humiliating 5-0 defeat to bottom-placed Pescara. Just two months later, he was back, but was sacked again 12 games into the 2017-18 season, with the Grifone sitting in the relegation zone.

  So it was a massive shock when, early into the 2018-19 season, Juric returned for a third spell following the dismissal of Davide Ballardini. He lasted just seven games, with no wins, before being sacked again.

  By this point, his managerial reputation was in tatters. He had gone from one of the most exciting coaches in Italy to a punchline. So his appointment at Hellas Verona in June 2019 was met with understandable scepticism. But in less than a year, he’s managed to restore his reputation and then some.

  Juric had Hellas competing for a Europa League spot for most of the season, despite minimal spending in the transfer market. They’ve fallen away from contention for Europe since the restart, but they still seem likely to finish in the top-half, a stellar achievement for a team that everyone doubted last August.

  The Croatian has earned praise from his mentor, Gasperini, for his accomplishments. “I think they’re the revelation of the season, also because of the playing style they have developed.”

  Gasperini’s praise of his protege’s tactical approach is amusing, since the two employ a very similar style of play. Both tend to set out their teams in a 3-4-2-1 or 3-4-1-2 formation, with a positive and aggressive approach to the game. Clearly, Juric has learned a lot from the nine years spent with the 62-year-old tactician.

  There’s still a long way to go until he can match Gasperini’s achievements, but he is taking it slower now. He has recently signed a new deal with Verona, indicating that he feels there is still much work to do before he can move on to bigger things.

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Fourth place might not guarantee Champions League | Football Italia

  There is a possible, albeit remote, chance that the team finishing fourth in Serie A this season won’t qualify for the Champions League.

  Usually, the top four from the Italian league would automatically gain entry to the Champions League group phase.

  However, there are some circumstances for the 2019-20 Serie A campaign where that might not necessarily be true.

  If Napoli were to win the Champions League, they would be given a spot in the tournament next season.

  Similarly, if Roma win the Europa League, then they too are given a place in the Champions League.

  If both those events happen, with Napoli and Roma outside the top four, then UEFA rules come into play.

  Only five clubs from a single nation are allowed to compete in the Champions League in one season.

  Therefore, the Europa League and Champions League winners would be given places, with the side finishing fourth in Serie A dropping to the Europa League.

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Worst Juve to win the Scudetto | Football Italia

  Thank goodness we have Atalanta. After another season where Juventus have been allowed to sleepwalk to the Scudetto, the Dea put their traditional rivals to shame last night, holding them to a 2-2 draw in Turin. Two penalties stopped Atalanta from taking all three points and, staying true to form for the Calcio community, the debate quickly escalated into whether they should’ve been given at all, but there were far more pressing matters for the Bianconeri to consider. If there were any doubts before, their visitors made sure there aren’t any now.

  In no way should this blog be construed as a case of Juve’s failings being the primary motivation for the result. Atalanta proved their status as the best team in Italy on current form, doing their bit to stop us from falling out of love with football during the coronavirus pandemic by serving up some swashbuckling football. Milan must be similarly commended for their 4-2 win, but the difference is Gian Piero Gasperini’s side dominated the Old Lady away from home, facing a full-strength team that included Paulo Dybala and Matthijs de Ligt.

  Sarri has a huge job on his hands. Tasked with transforming Juve’s style of play, that couldn’t happen without some sort of transition period – or, in other words, a season possibly without silverware. Chelsea even showed them what not to do with him last term. Although he won them a Europa League and qualified them for the Champions League, fans were generally unhappy with what they perceived to be a pedestrian brand of football. He was also insufficiently backed in the transfer market as only Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic and Gonzalo Higuain came in.

  Judging by how the Sarri effect is already fizzling out, it seems Andrea Agnelli and his fellow board members didn’t take much notice. Last summer should’ve marked the start of a revolution, when the older guard began to make way for a younger, more proactive type of player. Instead, they looked dazed and confused against Atalanta, stuck between their past and present. After years of being drilled by Max Allegri, the club was wrong to expect much of his squad to suddenly discard the formula that had just won an eighth straight Scudetto.

  Even worse, Agnelli and co. were wrong assume Juve’s players could suddenly adapt to ‘Sarri-ball’. It’s said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and that’s the Bianconeri right now – bored dogs with no desire to change. Rather tellingly, after Cristiano Ronaldo equalised from the spot last night, he didn’t pick the ball out of the net or run straight back to the centre-circle. Instead, he was happy to perform his trademark celebration with his teammates not far behind. For a team who pride themselves on winning at all costs, that was hardly the case.

  Maybe the celebrations were a sense of relief at how they had a route back in after a first half where Atalanta played them off park, particularly in central midfield. Juve once had the luxury of Paul Pogba, Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio, who could do it all, scoring more than 20 league goals in each season between 2012 and 2015. In contrast, their midfield men this term have so far managed a meagre seven. Compared to the Orobici’s 15, It confirms just how safe they’ve become and what little impact Aaron Ramsey has had since arriving from Arsenal.

  Rodrigo Bentancur may grow into the ‘regista’ role, but his development will be bottlenecked for as long as he is partnered with the likes of Blaise Matuidi, Adrien Rabiot and Sami Khedira. Miralem Pjanic being swapped for Arthur Melo is a step in the right direction, but Sarri will need much more than the Barcelona man. The lame nature of Juve’s midfield reached a new low when Atalanta prevented them from venturing into their half for eight minutes. Not only can’t they score but, as yesterday’s visitors showed, they can’t press properly either.

  Atalanta’s all-out attacking approach is rightly winning all the plaudits, but their ability to unearth hidden gems is what truly sets them apart. Whereas Ramsey, Alex Sandro, Douglas Costa and Gonzalo Higuain all struggled to make an impact for Juve off the bench, Ruslan Malinovskyi was silky and spritely, blasting in his side’s second goal. A special mention also goes to Adrien Tameze. The 26-year-old barely played for Nice before January yet didn’t put a foot wrong during his cameo, slotting straight in for Remo Freuler and recycling possession like a seasoned pro.

  Scoring two penalties in one game like Ronaldo did is no mean feat, but it also shows how far Juve have fallen that they are relying on spot-kicks just to draw a game, regardless of the opposition. Atalanta’s strong form since the restart is probably too little too late for the Scudetto and the Bianconeri sit eight points clear at the top, going into the final six fixtures. They have set the bar in Serie A for the past eight years, with no-one able to come close to them, but that shouldn’t detract from the fact this Juve will be the worst of the lot to win the title.

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Sports and Slot games certainly have a strong relationship!

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Fantasy – Age of Gods, Pixies of the Forest and Rainbow Riches

Holidays – Santa Surprise, Fruit Shop Christmas and Pumpkin Bonanza

Music – Jimi Hendrix, Britain’s Got Talent Superstar and Wild Beats

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