WFC Preview: Juventus looking to bring it together vs. Guadalajara

Juventus will look to continue building momentum from their Herbalife World Football Challenge 1-0 win on Tuesday over Club América when they finish their participation in the tournament against another Mexican foe, CD Guadalajara, at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C. (8 pm ET; ESPN2, Galavisión)

The home of the North Carolina State Wolfpack is usually reserved or football games, but on Thursday, it will play host the soccer match between two of the world’s most popular teams.

JUVENTUS

Two matches into their preseason, a new-look Juventus have shown they’re still in the early stages of trying to come together as a team.

In their first WFC match against Sporting Clube de Portugal, the Bianconeri put in a lackluster first half and failed to create much offense, dropping a 2-1 decision. On Tuesday against América, it was las Águilas who dominated much of the encounter, but a wonder goal from Cristian Pasquato proved the lone difference in a 1-0 win.

Juventus manager Antonio Conte knows the change won’t happen overnight. Instead, he knows it’s a slow process, but one which the players are willing to partake in.

“We need to build a house and we’re just at the foundation and this needs to be made clear,” Conte said after the win vs. América. “But I have to make clear that I have workers … workers that believe in what they’re doing and have a desire to build this house.”

The Bianconeri will have another chance to strengthen that foundation — or maybe even erect a wall — against Chivas on Thursday, the last game left in their North American tour.

GUADALAJARA

Chivas’ first go-around in the World Football Challenge was anything but easy. Facing mighty Real Madrid in San Diego on July 20, Guadalajara held strong thanks in large part to goalkeeper Luis Ernesto Míchel, but then the Cristiano Ronaldo show got underway and the Portuguese buried the Mexican squad with a hat trick.

Guadalajara thus entered their first regular-season game on Saturday against Atlante with a without one single win in seven preseason matches. But their hardships seemed to have lit a fire in their bellies, as the Rojiblancos offense came alive and the team went on to take home a 2-0 victory.

Chivas now turn their attention back to the WFC to take on yet another storied club, this time Italian giants Juventus. Despite splitting attentions between two tournaments, Guadalajara players assure they’re gunning for win against the Bianconeri.

“[We have to] approach it with the same intensity with which we’ve done,” Chivas midfielder Patricio Araujo told the club’s website. “We’re not taking this tournament lightly. … They’re important games in our careers, in the professional growth of Chivas players … and we’re hoping to get our first win in [WFC].”

Speaking of professional growth, it’s likely that manager José Luis Real will mix-and-match regulars and reserves, which could mean that at least one of the four Mexican U-17 World Cup winners could make their much-anticipated debuts on Thursday.

KEY PLAYERS

Juventus: Andrea Pirlo

After a 10-year stint at AC Milan that saw Pirlo win two Scudettos and two Champions League trophies, Pirlo and the Rossoneri split ways. The Italian international went the way of the black-and-white, and his creativity and playmaking abilities will figure to be a key piece in Conte’s revamped squad.

Guadalajara: Luis Ernesto Míchel

The 32-year-old ‘keeper has proved worthy heir to legendary netminder Oswaldo Sánchez. Since taking over Chivas No. 1 jersey, Míchel, commonly known as “Fray” (Friar) for stepping up to make huge saves on countless occasions, has risen to prominence as one of Mexico’s top goalkeepers — if not the best.