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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Aug 23, 2012

Agnelli backs Juve title defence

Juventus president Andrea Agnelli has angrily insisted that no outside forces can hold the Serie A champions back from defending their title.

In August last year, no one would have predicted that La Vecchia would go through an entire campaign unbeaten in the league, conceding only 20 goals under new coach Antonio Conte.

But similarly no Juventus fan could have foreseen that, only several months after masterminding a historic campaign, their hero would find himself disqualified from leading the Turin club in their title defence.

The 43-year-old former Italy international was handed a 10-month ban for his alleged involvement in the 'Calcioscommesse' scandal - the match-fixing saga that took over the Italian sporting agenda throughout the summer - during his spell in charge of Siena in 2011.

And Conte's subsequent failure to overturn the ban at the Federal Court of Justice in time for Saturday's first game of the season against Parma, enraged Agnelli.

He told the club's official website: "As has been stated on numerous occasions, Antonio Conte is and will remain the coach of Juventus.

"The club, whose deserved Supercoppa triumph caused yet more envy while giving rise to anti-Juventus sentiment, stands united as it enters a challenging season in Serie A, the Champions League and the Coppa Italia. Anyone who thinks this summer's judicial proceedings might affect our season is seriously mistaken.''

With Conte and assistant Angelo Alessio missing, technical director Massimo Carrera continues at the helm as Roberto Donadoni's Crociati, who rallied to an eighth-placed finish last season, visit the Juventus Stadium.

Veteran captain Gianluigi Buffon will miss out against his former club due to a thigh muscle complaint, allowing Marco Storari to come in between the sticks.

Promising trequartista Sebastian Giovinco should line up against Donadoni's men, for whom he scored 15 league goals last season, with summer recruits Lucio and Kwadwo Asamoah also set to feature.

Fiorentina are also in action on Saturday, with coach Vincenzo Montella eager to test out Alberto Aquilani, David Pizarro and Borja Valero as a new-look Viola midfield take on Udinese.

Montella insisted there is still plenty of work to be done before the new season despite progressing past Novara in the Coppa Italia earlier this week. He told Viola Channel: "We need to grow and are still a work in progress. We must be more clinical in front of goal to avoid having any regrets.''

Sunday sees Zdenez Zeman return to life in Serie A having taken over at Roma this summer, with Catania the first test for the Czech tactician.

Last season's runners-up AC Milan challenge newly-promoted Sampdoria without the injured Alexandre Pato or the recently-departed duo of Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Inter Milan provide stern opposition as they visit newcomers Pescara on the east coast, with Torino also back in the top flight and travelling to Siena.

Palermo play host to mainland rivals Napoli, Atalanta welcome Lazio and Genoa take on Cagliari, with Chievo playing Bologna to complete the first weekend's line-up.

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