It hasn’t been a great week by recent standards. But considering that one year ago Juventus was hovering just on the outskirts of the top of the table, with the most optimistic hope for a top-3 finish and a return to the Champions League brings back perspective – that when tifosi were stunned from a loss to Inter Milan, it was only because it prevented the 50th – read that again, yes 50th – consecutive undefeated match from occurring, well…
A bit of perspective is in order.
It’s time to bring perspective away from domestic competition and think about what the initial goal from last season, the UCL. Having accomplished that and then some, bringing home a serious piece of silverware, the bianconeri stay home to face Nordsjaelland in what is undoubtedly a must-win in order to keep their Champions League hopes alive (or at least into the knockout stage in order to secure that revenue remains on its way in).
It’s a bit of dejavu all over again for Juventus, as a paltry 3 points out of 3 games conjures memories from the team’s last jaunt into Europe (the secondary competition that is). Despite all three draws coming from behind and arguably showing that ‘grinta’ rediscovered after last year, some wonderful opportunities to gain a foothold in the group have gone squandered. Sitting in third place, they need to capture all three points at home against the little Danes that could; especially considering that the next two fixtures are away at Shakhtar and, albeit home, against defending Champions Chelsea.
Nordsjaelland, meanwhile, have just about saw the clock hit 11:59 from inside their magic pumpkin. Although, what is critical to note is that the one point they’ve earned in their first trip to Europe’s elite competition was against yours truly.
What will be key is whether Juventus can recoup and recover from the aforementioned defeat from last weekend. A common narrative from the aftermath has been that exact question. Yes, it is true that champions are made out of that ability. Juventus under Antonio Conte have never experienced that before, so their ability to rebound is virtually untested to this point (absent a post-scudetto hangover-induced thrashing to Napoli). That, and whether the rigors of playing on three fronts will finally catch up to them.
Despite that, reports suggest that interim coach
Carrera Alessio (edit: whoever it is at this point) will play it safe with most of the lineup. I am a bit surprised to not see the lineup shift a bit more, expecting perhaps to see Lucio or Martin Caceres make a spot start to provide a breather for Andrea Barzagli or Giorgio Chiellini; although the former’s recent displays probably attest to why not. Perhaps more surprising, recent hero teenage mutant ninja Pogba finding a spot in the starting XI.
Per recent custom, the only changes seem to be the perpetually moving striker-carousel. Although goalless, Niklas Bendtner has looked decent off the ball and is surely not lacking in confidence – something a team with a tendency to miss that last winning goal could use a bit more of in the final third – and could also find a start against his (and Lars’) countrymen.
As for Nordsjælland, you’re lucky I can deliver a probable XI. Although rumors have been swirling that a certain Danish writer of JuventiKNOWS is offering readers one swift kick to his Danish groin per person in order to soften the blow in the event of dropped points. At press time, these reports could neither be confirmed nor denied, so I’ll just go ahead and confirm them to be on the safe side.
What makes a truly championship-caliber team is the ability to show resiliency in the wake of crushing defeat. Let’s not forget that the Mourinho-era Inter — a team widely regarded as one of the recent best in Italian and European football — never came close to such a long unbeaten run, even losing to an eventual 7th place Juventus during the course of that historic treble-winning season. The response in Turin will be key in terms of momentum moving forward, with ramifications beyond the Champions League.
And for the love of God, let’s please just have a win in Europe already.