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Preview : Aston Villa v Juventus


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VillaTalk previews Sunday's mouth-watering Peace Cup final between Villa and Juventus

Opponent : Juventus F.C.

Venue : Olympic Stadium, Sevilla

Date : Sunday 2nd August

Kick off : 21:00 (22:00 CET)

150px-Aston_Villa.svg.png VERSUS 140px-Juventus-FC.png

So the Peace Cup final being held in Spain will not have a Spanish representative. How that affects the attendance remains to be seen. Let's hope that Sevillanos are football crazy and do the final justice.

The winners purse of €2,000,000 is a minor detail to the fans but we'll mention it nonetheless. The losers are already guaranteed €1,000,000 for their troubles.

The match itself is being played in Sevilla at the unused* 57,619 capacity Olympic Stadium.

(* Sevilla FC & Real Betis both use their own stadia)

The opposition:

Requiring absolutely no introduction, Juventus are the most successful team in Italian history. They have won everything there is to win in the club game.

Amongst their record 27 Serie 'A' titles and record 9 Coppa Italia titles they have a European cup and a Champions League crown. They have a record 3 UEFA cups, a Cup winners cup, 2 European super cups, 2 Intercontinental cups and even an Intertoto cup. They are the best supported club in Italy and boast one of the largest fanbases of any team in world football. Up until the match fixing scandal of 2006, Juve had never been relegated from Italy's top division, but that scandal resulted in demotion to Serie 'B' and, more painfully, the handing back of their 2 most recent titles from the 04/05 & the 05/06 seasons. Juve sauntered back to the top flight as runaway champions of Serie 'B' in 06/07 and in their 2 seasons since, under the guidance of Claudio Ranieri, they have finished 3rd & 2nd respectively. Though Claudio has since departed.

Juve squad:

Juventus are already much improved from the Juve that finished the season 2nd a few months back. They have added Fabio Cannavaro to their defensive ranks from Réal Madrid. The impressive Diego has joined from Werder Bremen for over €24m. Highly rated defensive midfielder and recent Arsenal target, Felipe Melo, has joined from Fiorentina for over €20m. Sadly for all Villans though, they have recently sold former Villa Park stalwart and legend Olof Mellberg to Greek side Olympiakos, so there's no chance of an emotional re-union with the Swede. I'm sure he'll be watching on a TV from somewhere in Athens, wishing he'd stayed with Juve for just one more month and a half.

Of the established stars already at Juve, the players we will need to pay close attention to are the attacking players. Captain and footballing legend, Alessandro del Piero, still definitely has 'it'. This little magician will tear us asunder if given half a chance. Vincenzo Iaquinto is a prolific striker who already has 2 goals in the tournament and only needs a sniff of a chance to score. Diego we've mentioned already. He has been prominent for Juve so far in this tournament and the Bosnian Hasan Salihamidzic was influential in the semi-final win over Réal Madrid. At the back and at set pieces, former world player of the year Fabio Cannavaro is the obvious pick of the bunch, though if Italians can do anything it is defend excellently as a unit. Oh and there's a bloke in goal who's a bit OK. Goes by the name of Gianluigi Buffon.

Juve's route to final:

Juventus were the only team to come out of the group stages with a 100% record. On the opening day of the tournament they beat their hosts Sevilla 2-1 with goals from Amauri & Iaquinta. By most accounts Juve started this competition as slowly as we did (despite the result) and Sevilla were unlucky not to get something from the match. But four days later, like Villa, a much improved Juventus strolled to a 3-0 victory against South Korean side Seongnam. Iaquinta once again on the scoresheet followed by new signing Diego and defensive mouthful Nicola Legrottaglie finishing the job.

Undoubtedly the glamour semi-final on paper saw them face off against Réal Madrid. In what is turning out to be a regular theme in this tournament, this was more of an 'unfriendly' than a 'friendly' as two very glamourous teams went head to head, neither wanting to be beaten by the other. Juve got on the scoresheet as early as the 3rd minute through a Cannavaro headed goal from a del Piero cross and after Ronaldo had dispatched a penalty for Réal, del Piero was once again provider for Salihamidzic's winner. So the Italians were in the final at the expense of the Spaniards. Though not before some very tasty tackles flew in from both sides.

The Match:

From Villa's perspective, we can hope that Curtis Davies recovers from his knock to take his place alongside Carlos Cuéllar at the heart of the defence. I wouldn't like to put that kind of pressure on Ciaran Clark just yet, for his own sake. Though I wouldn't be surprised to see him at some stage. If Lichaj's 2 bookings are cleared for the final then you would expect the fullbacks to remain as they have up to now. Lichaj and Shorey, though unspectacular, have largely stayed mistake-free and done a good job. The young American, making his senior Villa debut in this tournament, deserves praise for the way he has applied himself, worked very hard on the pitch and gotten over the inevitable nervousness of making a debut. If he is suspended for the final it would be a huge shame for the kid and it would probably mean another youngster stepping into his shoes. Let's hope they make the sensible decision.

In goal, it is clear that Brad Guzan has earned his place in the final, off the back of 2 very impressive performances against Atlante & Porto, though if Martin chooses rotation then it's clearly Brad senior's turn. Either way, I'm confident in both of our keepers to do a sterling job on the day whoever gets the nod.

Emile Heskey's sending off in the Porto game means there could be a place for Marlon Harewood in the starting line-up alongside Carew. As the only other natural striker in the squad he is the obvious choice. Though it does limit our options from the bench later on especially when Big John inevitably gets tired. If we wanted to keep Harewood as a Carew replacement then we would likely have to go to 4-5-1. That would mean someone like Barry Bannan could join Sidwell and Reo-Coker in the middle with Carew as the lone targetman. Either way, Martin has a key decision to make for this one and whoever replaces Heskey in the team will be tasked with breaking down what is sure to be a formidable defence.

I can't help feeling that our centrebacks are in for a very difficult night. From watching Juve, they will try and twist and turn their way around and in behind us. We will need to be very alert, mobile and extremely careful when trying to stop them. They also live off slide-rule and defence splitting passes and have the players to deliver them. If we allow del Piero to sit back and pull the strings then frankly we have little chance of winning. Villa's best chance is to use our strength and pace. Close people down, put balls up to the big lad(s) whenever possible and support them. We need to try and counter them as only we know how.

The Italians will not be used to this type of opponent and English teams have had joy against Italians in Europe. The only issue, once again, might be the temperature. We handled the Mexicans well; and that was touching 90 degrees. The city of Sevilla is marginally more Northerly than Malaga, though the difference in temperature will be negligible if at all. The slightly later kick off time is likely to have the bigger impact. At the end of the day, we just need to have a disciplined plan, have huge concentration for 90+ minutes, give it 100% and not lose our heads or our organisation at any point. If we can do that and do it effectively, then we have the quality to beat them in this one-off game.

The trouble is they easily have the quality to do us over too.

This should be a cracker and I can't wait!

UP THE VILLA !!!

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evnsj6 It should be shown on Gol TV the same as all our games to date. There will be internet streams closer to the time.

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I watch it on 'TVU' but there are links that just use media player which assuming you have windows (and not linux) will work.

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Who do we think will start? What would be the best formation? I'd like to see a beefy midfield. Something like this:

...................Guzan

Lichtaj Cuellar Davies Shorey

Albrighton Sidwell NRC Bannan

.....................Young

.................. Carew

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