WFC Preview: Revamped Juventus, new-look Sporting collide
Both Juventus and Sporting Clube de Portugal are teams that, in an effort to regain their former glory, have undergone changes ahead of their upcoming campaigns.
In a Herbalife World Football Challenge match at BMO Field in Toronto on Saturday (7 pm ET, ESPN Deportes), Juventus will look to get off with a bang while Sporting will focus on continuing their solid form.
Sporting, who finished a distant third in the Portuguese Primeira Division last season, are fresh off a 3-0 win on Monday over Ankaraguçu in what was their third preseason match in Holland. The new-look Lions have yet to concede a goal thus far in preseason.
Juventus, meanwhile, enter their first preseason match of the year with high hopes. After finishing seventh in Serie A last season, i Bianconeri hope the new faces can breathe some new life into the team.
A club that is trying to be, in the words of ‘keeper Gianluigi Buffon, an “important team again,” Juventus have reached into their storied past for a new manager, signing former Bianconeri star, Antonio Conte as the man to lead the charge.
Conte has plenty of star quality at his disposal. The new manager can count on 2006 World Cup winners Buffon, strikers Alessandro Del Piero and Luca Toni, midfielder Andrea Pirlo, and defender Andrea Barzagli.
The team’s roster for the WFC also includes a bevy of current Italian national team regulars such as Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Claudio Marchisio, Simone Pepe, Fabio Quagliarella and Alessandro Matri, as well as new signings Reto Ziegler, Stefan Lichtsteiner and Michele Pazienza.
Juventus, who have won Serie A a record 29 times, brought out a throng of supporters to BMO Field for training on Friday and are likely to have a huge crowd of supporters on hand on Saturday.
Sporting Clube de Portugal
Like Juventus, Sporting have no shortage of hardware: they’ve won the league title 18 times.
However, their glory days seemed so far away last season, when, despite finishing third, were left in the dust by league winners Porto and runners-up Benfica.
To remedy the situation, the Lions brought in a new manager for this season, luring Domingos Paciência from Braga, who were surprise Europa League finalists and finished just two points behind Sporting in league play.
Led by team captain Daniel Carriço – who doesn’t turn 23 years old until next month – and striker Hélder Postiga, Sporting brought in a number of new faces to help them lift the title this season. New players include American center back Oguchi Onyewu, who could make his first start for the club on Saturday, and freshly-signed Spanish international Diego Capel.
Juventus: Gianluigi Buffon
Age may have cost Buffon just a little of his mobility, but he is still agile and commanding in goal and is sure to have a busy night with Portugal international Hélder Postiga on the other side of the pitch peppering his goal with shots.
Sporting Clube de Portugal: Daniel Carriço
Carriço, who attracted attention from top European clubs during the winter transfer window, including none other than Juventus, is the Lions’ young but capable skipper. The center back will have his hands full with the likes of Del Piero and Toni, just to name a couple.