Marchisio: Juventus no longer afraid

Eight years since Juventus last won the scudetto midfielder Claudio Marchisio believes the winning mentality is back at the club under coach Antonio Conte.

Marchisio's six league goals have helped the Bianconeri to a 16-match unbeaten start to the season and they head into the new year joint top of Serie A with champions AC Milan.

"Conte has brought a new mentality to the club," Marchisio told Reuters in an interview. "One of his merits has been to eliminate the fear which had unfortunately taken hold at the club after years of disappointing results."

With 27 scudettos, nine more than AC Milan and Inter Milan, Juventus are Italy's most successful club domestically, but they have struggled since the 2006 calciopoli scandal when they were stripped of the 2005 and 2006 scudettos and demoted to Serie B.

"Conte is called the hammer by some of the players, and there's probably no better description," said the 25-year old.

"The boss knows what winning means and he brings that winning mindset to the club every day based on his own hard-working committed character."

The Turin giants, who missed out on European football last season after finishing outside the top six, have also benefitted this term from the new close-to-the-action Juventus Arena, Italy's first stadium to be owned by a club.

"I couldn't guess how many extra points the ground will be worth for us this season," Marchisio said.

"But what I can definitely say is the feeling you get when you hear the fans constantly encourage. Seeing their faces close up gives you renewed energy and helps you go the extra mile."

LATE GOALS

The 41,000-capacity arena was the venue in October when Marchisio struck two late goals to beat Milan 2-0, a result that could be crucial come the end of the season as ultimate standings in Serie A are decided on head-to-head records - not goal difference - after points won.

"I think the new system has helped bring out my best qualities," Marchisio said. "I've always thought of myself as a central midfielder with good technical ability and a good engine.

"The boss's style helps my game and I've been able this season to get between the opponents' defensive lines."

Marchisio's all-round ability has been likened to Marco Tardelli, the Juve player who scored Italy's third goal in the 1982 World Cup final before unleashing a wild scream of joy.

"The comparison with Tardelli is something journalists have been saying for a while," said Marchisio, a former captain of Juve's youth team. "I honestly don't remember Tardelli playing, just a few match highlights so it's difficult to say.

"My boyhood hero was Alessandro Del Piero who I'm now lucky enough to play with. But in any case it's a bit premature to be compared with a legend of Italian football who has won everything.

"I've worked hard to shake off the eternal youth tag, which I've had to carry around for a long while. Being a footballer and achieving your goals means making huge sacrifices.

"The arrival of Andrea in the summer has been crucial," he says of the ex-Milan playmaker who suffered from the same weight of expectation at the beginning of his career.

"He's a really top-class player who just makes everything look so easy. He's brought great quality to the team and experience to the dressing room."

Central to Cesare Prandelli's Italy team, Marchisio will hope to arrive in Poland and Ukraine for Euro 2012 in June on a wave of euphoria, but the scudetto is a word still used sparingly beneath the fog of Turin.

"We've had some excellent results against top teams away from home which is encouraging," he said, with Juve having visited Udinese, Lazio, Inter, AS Roma and Napoli.

"We know how much we've achieved so far but there's so much more work before us to do. It's impossible to say how far this side can go."


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