Conte banned for Juve’s Supercup game vs. Napoli

Juventus’ preparations for the Italian Supercup against Napoli

were thrown into disarray after coach Antonio Conte was suspended

for 10 months for his role in a match-fixing scandal on Friday.

The club plans to appeal the suspension, but whatever the

outcome it will come too late for Saturday’s match in Beijing.

Juventus will instead be coached by assistant Massimo Carrera.

Conte, who led Juventus to the Serie A title last season, was

punished for failing to report match-fixing in two games during the

2010-11 season when he was coach of then-Serie B side Siena.

Juventus will also be without winger Simone Pepe and defender

Leonardo Bonucci despite the pair being cleared in the fixing

scandal.

”We’re good, we’re focused and we’re really up for this

challenge,” defender Andrea Barzagli said. ”Stories off the pitch

don’t trouble us. In fact, maybe they fire us up more. When you go

out onto the pitch everything else stays behind and you only think

about the game.”

Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri does not think Conte’s absence will

have much bearing on the match.

”With good coaches, it doesn’t change much if they don’t sit on

the bench,” he said. ”A coach can’t affect much during the

game.”

The traditional season opener between the Serie A champions and

the Italian Cup winners is taking place for the third time in four

years in Beijing.

Napoli was the only team to beat Juventus last season, winning

2-0 in the Italian Cup final, but Barzagli is confident of a

different outcome this time around.

”We know Napoli’s strengths. It has a great potential and

important players. But the real protagonist last year was Juve, and

I think Napoli will have to do a lot of work if it wants to win the

Supercup,”Barzagli said. ”We will be aggressive and try to impose

our game. In short, the same Juve as always.”

Juventus has won the competition five times and finished

runner-up on four occasions. The club’s last Supercup appearance

was in 2005 when it lost to Inter Milan.

Napoli has only played one Supercup, and will be hoping for a

repeat of its 5-1 win against Juventus in 1990.

”Being here in Beijing to play for a prestigious trophy means

that we have done something important,” Mazzarri said. ”This

challenge is a source of happiness and pride for us.

”We’re up against a team that crushed everyone last season in

the league. But we’re doing well. Up to now I’ve seen really good

signs all well, and I hope to see the best Napoli on Saturday

too.”

It will also be the first time for both sides without their

talisman. Juventus will be without Alessandro Del Piero, who left

at the end of the season after nearly 20 years at the club.

While Napoli star Ezequiel Lavezzi moved to big-spending Paris

Saint-Germain in the offseason.

The match is expected to nevertheless be an entertaining one.

Napoli came closest to beating Juventus in the league last season,

when it led 3-1 at home before Juve escaped with a draw. The return

match finished 3-0 to the Turin outfit.