English League 2

Parkinson names his favourites

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Thu, 06 Dec 2012 11:51:00

Juventus assistant coach Angelo Alessio was happy to hand the reins back to the returning Antonio Conte having sealed progression to the last 16 of the Champions League.

A 1-0 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk, courtesy of Oleksandr Kucher's own-goal in the 56th minute, also saw the Bianconeri top Group E and avoid a clutch of tricky opponents in the next round.

Juve head coach Conte returns from a four-month suspension for his involvement in a match-fixing scandal to take control of Juve at Palermo this weekend.

And Alessio was delighted to cede control to Conte with the team in such rude health, telling juventus.com: "We knew we were in for a tough game and coming out on top fills us with pride.

"It was no simple task today but once we managed to put the reins on their forwards they found it hard to play their usual game and support the front men.

"We're delighted to go through and to have qualified as group winners. Credit must go to these lads because even without Antonio they've done everything that's been asked of them.

"As time has passed we've become more and more confident in our own means. We showed that first against Chelsea then again this evening."

Despite defeat in the Donbass Arena, Shakhtar claimed second place in the group and progression to the knockout stages at the expense of reigning champions Chelsea.

It had been suggested that Juve and Shakhtar would play for a convenient draw to make it mathematically impossible for the Blues to progress, a tactic Bianconeri director Beppe Marotta flatly rejected employing.

He said: "We knew we were up against a top team and that we only needed a point, but we didn't play for a draw. Our aim was to win and win we did.

"We've come through a tough group, winning the last two games against European champions Chelsea and the revelation of the tournament, Shakhtar.

"Our self-esteem has increased with each game and we've shown that we can compete with anyone."

Diminutive forward Sebastian Giovinco played a significant role in the only goal of the game, nipping onto Stephan Lichtsteiner's cross to get a touch on the ball before Kucher turned it into his own net.

"I touched the ball, I don't know how much that influenced things but if I hadn't made that run the defender probably would have been able to clear it," Giovinco said.

"In any case, the main thing was that we managed to score and go through."

Parkinson, whose side are currently sixth in the table, three points behind Cheltenham who occupy the third automatic promotion spot, said there was little to choose between any of the play-off contenders.

He said: "Gillingham and Port Vale are the obvious stand-out teams for me. We played well against Port Vale, but I saw them play against Oxford at home and they were excellent that night and Gillingham on the first day of the season were strong.

"They've had a little bit of a wobble, but they've got a good side and a strong squad. Those two and Fleetwood and Rotherham and teams like that, it's so competitive this year, really competitive."

Meanwhile, Parkinson is hoping injured pair Kyel Reid and Zavon Hines will both be back in contention for the Christmas programme.

Winger Reid has missed the last 14 games due to a groin injury and Hines has been sidelined since the middle of last month with an ankle problem.

Parkinson added: "Kyle and Zavon have been on the pitch (on Monday) down at the ground with the physios doing a session and I'll know a little bit more once I know how they got on.

"But they're progressing well. We've got to be looking around the Christmas fixtures. We're expecting they're both going to be in contention then."

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