In 2015/16, Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus started in dismal fashion. They failed to win their opening three games of the Serie A season and they sat in the bottom half of the table by the time October rolled around.
However, an imperious run that included 26 wins from their next 28 league outings, meant they sauntered to the Scudetto with an almighty 91 point haul. That was Allegri’s Bianconeri at their apex, and the manager’s return to Turin following a season of the idealistic novice Andrea Pirlo sparked fears that the Old Lady would swiftly return to the summit of Calcio once more.
But instead, a repeat of 2015/16 ensued. A historically poor start was followed by an impressive renaissance but it was a resurgence incomparable to seven years ago as they sustained three defeats in October and November.
Very few, if any, foreshadowed what would happen next in Turin.
A 15-game unbeaten run in Serie A has breathed fresh life into the Bianconeri’s campaign. The bold purchase of Dusan Vlahovic has galvanised this group of players, who have bought into the vintage Bianconeri ideals re-introduced by the wily traditionalist Allegri.
As a result of their recent efficacy, Juventus are fighting on three fronts as we approach the final stretch of the season. They’re alive and kicking in the Champions League and Coppa Italia, while many have tipped the Old Lady to mount a late Scudetto charge with nine league games remaining.
5 season-defining fixtures down the stretch in Juventus’ 2021/22 season
Their excellent run has allowed them to turn a once faltering campaign on its head, but several season-defining fixtures are on the horizon during the final stretch.
Here are five of them.
Villareal (H) – UCL round of 16 second leg
Juventus’ Champions League round of 16 tie with Villarreal is locked at 1-1 after the first leg in Spain. Vlahovic’s record-breaking opener on his UCL debut got the Bianconeri off to the perfect start, but an over-cautious gameplan – even by Allegri’s standards – allowed Villarreal to equalise following a defensive lapse.
The Bianconeri could’ve killed the Yellow Submarine off in their own backyard, but Allegri’s emphasis on preserving his side’s goal advantage as opposed to adding to it means that anxiety will be rife among Juventini in the Allianz Stadium for the reverse fixture.
Juve’s recent history at this stage of the competition paints a dark picture of what could happen when Villarreal pay a visit. Two-legged defeats to Lyon and Porto in the past two years were nothing short of humiliations, and depressing indications of just how far the Bianconeri had fallen.
Thus, Wednesday’s second leg has huge implications. Prevail, and the demons of the past few years will slowly dissipate, but yet another defeat would, well, I don’t even want to imagine what it’d mean. This is a game Allegri, in particular, simply cannot lose.