Parkinson names his favourites

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.”