Juventus: Still kicking on three fronts
Despite the frequent criticism, Juventus are exactly where manager Max Allegri hoped to be at this point of the season.
It’s March and, once again, Juventus remain alive on all three fronts. Are we surprised? Really?
With a game in hand on Napoli, who they now lead by one point, awaiting the draw for the Champions League quarterfinals and having already secured a place in the Coppa Italia final, Juventus are exactly where manager Max Allegri would have hoped to be when the season begun.
The critics – of which there is no shortage – attribute the club’s results to luck and a pragmatic approach. But is there something more at work?
Juventus in HD
Taking a 2-2 aggregate score with them to Wembley, goals from Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala eliminated Tottenham from the Champions League.
Did Spurs have more chances in both legs? Absolutely. But matches are decided by chances taken not just created.
And, while the Argentines provided the goals, how many did Giorgio Chiellini prevent? In the second half, he negated Harry Kane almost single-handedly.
For those questioning Allegri’s choice to start Andrea Barzaglia, who cleared the ball from the goal line in the waning moments of the game, the 37-year-old defender looked every bit worth his manager’s faith.
The match changed at the hour mark. Stephan Lichtsteiner came on for Medhi Benatia and Kwadho Asamoah for Blaise Matuidi as Allegri switched to a 4-4-2.
Suddenly, Juventus found space on the flanks. Spurs never reacted to the tactical change and were burned twice in a three-minute period.
By the time Fernando Llorente came on for a frustrated Dele Alli, the damage had been done. Despite Barzaglia’s heroics, Spurs will still be wondering how they failed to beat an Over-30s side in either leg.
Turning up for the crunch
Juventus’ victory in London came just days after Paulo Dybala’s injury-time goal in Rome took the Italians to the top of Serie A for the first time since September.
With Napoli crashing to a 4-1 defeat at home to Roma, the result changed the whole complexion of the title race, making the Bianconieri favourites over against a Maurizio Sarri side who had looked on course to upset the applecart in the Italian top division.
After Napoli failed to beat Inter last weekend, it seems unlikely that Juventus will throw away their advantage now. A game in hand won would put Allegri’s men four points clear at the top of Serie A, meaning Napoli will need something of a miracle to come through as Champions by May.
Importantly, then, whatever Juventus lack in terms of stylish play, they seem to be able to make up with sheet grit and determination, with Allegri getting the most out of a squad plagued with injury.
The question is: how much more can he squeeze out of his side?
Juventus are at home for three of their next four matches and five of their next eight – including the crucial April 22 showdown with Napoli.
Meanwhile, the road games against SPAL, Benevento and Crotone will provide ample opportunities to rest key players.
For their challengers in the battle for the Scudetto, two of their next four matches are away including a trip to revitalised AC Milan on April 15th.
After trailing Napoli for months, Juventus are finally in the hot seat in the league as they look forward to the Champions League quarterfinal draw on Friday.
Will Juventus still be alive in Europe when they take on AC Milan for the Coppa Italia final on the 9th of May? Stranger things have happened. Just ask Spurs.
How well do you expect Juventus to do this season? Let us know by commenting below.