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Juventus

Was Dani Alves one of three key Juventus signings to prepare for Paul Pogba’s departure?

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In Italian football, Juventus currently stand head and shoulders above all challengers. In the last five years they have claimed all five available Serie A titles, two Italian cups and three Italian Super Cups.

Currently enjoying a sustained period of dominance domestically, they have continued to fall short in the Champions League. Juventus are widely expected to reclaim a further Serie A title, even as they prepare for life without Paul Pogba, who is set to complete a world record transfer move to Manchester United for a deal in excess of £100 million.

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Pogba would become the second big name signing to depart Juventus this season after losing Alvaro Morata to Real Madrid for £25.5 million due to a cunningly placed buy-back clause in his contract by Real Madrid.

Despite the loss of a couple of key players, manager Massimiliano Allegri has been busy in the transfer market, as he continues to strengthen the squad in preparation for another season which could see them emerge as serious contenders for the European title as well as major Italian honours.

Allegri is aiming for his third consecutive league title and the club’s sixth, but with key acquisitions already made, here are three arriving players who could help them achieve European glory.

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1) Gonzalo Higuain

After a summer of rumours linking the Argentine with big money moves to the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea, the former Real Madrid superstar arrived from Napoli for £76.5 million. With such a gargantuan price tag comes a big expectation. The pressure to deliver the goals will come naturally to last season’s top scorer, who netted an impressive 36 goals in 35 games.

In his three years at Napoli, he amassed a total of 91 goals in 146 games in all competitions. His goal-scoring may prove to be the catalyst for a successful Champions League campaign, which he will be determined to add to his domestic trophy haul listed below.

List of Honours:

3 Spanish Championships (Real Madrid)

1 Spanish Cup (Real Madrid)

1 Spanish Super Cup (Real Madrid)

1 Italian Cup (Napoli)

1 Italian Super Cup (Napoli)

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2) Dani Alves

Without question, Dani Alves has been one of the best attacking full-backs of his generation. Whether he remains so is the only real point for debate. Alves arrives on a free contract from Barcelona, after spending 13 years in Spain where he amassed 621 appearances in all competitions for Barcelona (391 games) and Sevilla (230 games)

The 33-year-old will give Juventus a wealth of experience and add to the winning mentality of an impressive squad. Having grown accustomed to winning, he is unlikely to settle for less than adding to his already impressive trophy haul. His time in Spain has been filled with success and silverware.

List of Honours:

6 Spanish Championships (Barcelona)

5 Spanish Cups (4 Barcelona, 1 Sevilla)

6 Spanish Super Cups (5 Barcelona, 1 Sevilla)

2 Uefa Cups (Sevilla)

4 Uefa Super Cups (3 Barcelona, 1 Sevilla)

3 Champions Leagues (Barcelona)

3 Fifa Club World Cup (Barcelona)

International Honours:

1 Copa America (Brazil)

2 Confederations Cups (Brazil)

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3) Miralem Pjanic

The Bosnian playmaker was bought from Roma for £27.2 million and will be expected to become a key creative element of the Juventus team. The midfielder has spent five years at Roma and is experiencing a growing reputation in the game. Pjanic’s record for Roma is impressive with 30 goals and 46 assists in 185 games in all competitions.

He will be expected to regularly unlock opposition defences with his creative vision and range of passing. With Higuain up top, Pjanic is likely to be one of the main providers and his assist tally could rise significantly.

Having previously never claimed any honours within the game so far, he will be hungry to secure domestic and European titles during his time in Turin, and with such a collection of the game’s stars around him, who would bet against it coming to fruition as early as this coming season.


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Crystal Palace

Could Juventus’ Mario Mandzukic be the perfect man for Crystal Palace?

The Croatian striker scored twice in Juventus’ Champions League win over Real Madrid.

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Mario Mandzukic
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31-year-old Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic turned back the clock on Wednesday night with a remarkable two-goal display against defending European champions Real Madrid.

If Crystal Palace maintain their Premier League status, then Mandzukic could prove the perfect man to solve their striker problems.

In the days leading up to the match, reports in Italian outlet Tuttosport, as referenced by Football Italia and Goal in Germanyhad linked the Croatian striker with a transfer to the Chinese Super League, claiming that Juventus were prepared to let him leave in the summer.

Yet the experienced striker has shown he still possesses the quality to perform at the highest level, evidenced by his dominating quarterfinal display. Two first-half towering headers revealed the forward’s predatory instincts, ability to latch on to crosses, and knack for powerful finishes.

A move to China, in essence still a glorified amateur league, would represent a dramatic step down for Mandzukic far too soon in his career. Only in his early 30s, the striker still has a number of productive seasons left in the tank and can adapt his game to accommodate his age.

Mario Mandzukic

His arrival at Selhurst Park would fill the gap that the Eagles have had at centre-forward for a number of years. The misfiring Christian Benteke has failed to impress this term, passing up many a golden opportunity.

Mandzukic would add a lethal touch to the multitude of crosses Roy Hodgson’s side tend to swing in, benefiting from Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha’s wicked deliveries.

Although the transfer may appear ridiculous, to begin with, Palace have a proud recent history of signing players from Europe’s top clubs. Yohan Cabaye joined from Paris Saint Germain, Mamadou Sakho and Benteke joined from Liverpool, and Jairo Riedewald was brought in from Ajax.

The acquisition of Mandzukic would be a brilliant coup for the Eagles and propel them to the upper half of the table next season.

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Champions League

Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Juventus: Three talking points from Wembley

Tottenham bowed out of Europe against an experienced Juventus side.

Rob Meech

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Tottenham
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Tottenham Hotspur crashed out of the Champions League after Juventus produced an inspired fightback to progress to the quarter-finals. The in-form Son Heung-min had put Spurs 3-2 ahead on aggregate shortly before the interval, but two goals in three second-half minutes changed the complexion of the tie.

First, Gonzalo Higuain stabbed home the equaliser before Paulo Dybala completed the comeback with a delicate finish. Harry Kane hit the post in the dying moments, but Spurs’ exit at the hands of last season’s runners-up was confirmed as they failed to score a second goal. Here are three talking points from Wembley Stadium..

Max Allegri outfoxes his Tottenham counterpart

So poor were Juventus in the first half that they were fortunate to be only one goal behind on the night and still in the tie. There was no indication of what was to come, as Max Allegri’s side transformed the match in the second period. At the final whistle, the Juve boss headed straight down the tunnel instead of venturing on to the pitch to celebrate with his players. But it was his tactical switch that paved the way for their victory.

With an hour on the clock, on came Kwadwo Asamoah and Stephan Lichtsteiner, who injected much-needed pace and guile. The visitors changed formation and suddenly they were getting in between the lines, with Dybala becoming much more effective. Within minutes, Juve were 2-1 ahead and in their element. Once in front, they managed the game brilliantly and didn’t look like conceding. Mauricio Pochettino, who could only stand and watch it all unfold, had been outwitted by the master.

Future looks bright despite heartbreaking exit

Disappointment may be the overriding emotion for all involved at Tottenham right now, but once the dust has settled they should look back at their Champions League adventure with pride. For this was the season they arrived as a major force on the European stage. Victories over Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund in a group they topped were huge fillips and evidence of their continued progress under Pochettino.

Spurs were unlucky to be drawn against a club of Juventus’ pedigree in the last 16 and it was the Italians’ knowhow that paid dividends in the heat of the battle. The hosts looked a little naive, but the experience will benefit them in the future. Tottenham are odds-on to finish in the top four and thereby qualify for the Champions League again next season. Should Pochettino be given the funds to invest in his squad this summer, the club’s fans can look forward to more nights under the spotlight.

In-form Son strikes again for Spurs

The South Korean, who was given the nod ahead of Erik Lamela in the starting line-up, vindicated his selection with the opening goal at Wembley. Son had already gone close to breaking the deadlock and was causing Andrea Barzagli all sorts of problems with his marauding runs. There was more than a touch of fortune about the goal, which rebounded off his left leg and wrong-footed veteran keeper Gianluigi Buffon, but it was no less than the Spurs forward deserved.

Son came close to levelling the tie in the latter stages but, ultimately, it was to be neither his nor Tottenham’s night. With 16 goals in all competitions this season, the 25-year-old is making a big impression. He was the home side’s most potent attacking force, upstaging both Kane and Dele Alli at Wembley. Son has finally established himself in the starting XI and Spurs fans will hope he can continue to ease the goalscoring burden on Kane.

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Chelsea

Juventus eye up Chelsea’s Gary Cahill as a replacement for Leonardo Bonucci – Should they let him go?

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Cahill

In a surprising news item, The Sun claim that Juventus could look to Chelsea to replace Leonardo Bonucci after the Italian’s move to AC Milan and may target Gary Cahill as a replacement.

The Chelsea captain is currently serving a three game suspension after his red card on the opening day, but the Italian club may be hoping that he has played his last game for the Blues. They are reportedly prepared to spend as much as £16.5 million to bring him to the Juventus Stadium.

That could be tempting for Chelsea given that Cahill is 31-years-old and undoubtedly past his best. With a number of young defenders coming through, including the likes of Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen, it could be tempting to cash in on Cahill and give more opportunities for them to develop.

His rash challenge against Burnley also left his team in the lurch and critics have claimed that it was symbolic of how out of depth the former Bolton man is as captain of the Premier League champions. With mounting pressure, he will need to be up to scratch when under scrutiny more than anyone.

However, Cahill was only recently appointed captain and it would send out entirely the wrong message if he was to be sold now. After a disastrous transfer window so far, it would not only be a psychological blow to lose the club captain, but would also leave Antonio Conte with less than a week to replace him.

His experience is also invaluable. Whilst the likes of Christensen may be knocking on the door of the starting line-up, he will need experienced heads like Cahill’s in and around him to help his development to reach his full potential as a Chelsea player in the years to come.

It could be tempting for Chelsea to allow Cahill to move on, and had this move have happened in June, it may well stand a chance of happening. Now with the season under way and only a matter of days away from the transfer window closing, it would be an incomprehensible decision if Chelsea do sell their captain.

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