Juventus has beaten middling teams, but must show they can handle tougher outfits
Against Villarreal in the second leg of their Champions League round of 16 matchup, Juventus were utterly lifeless as Unai Emery completely outfoxed his opposite number, Max Allegri. Sure, this team can beat the likes of Empoli, Sampdoria, Spezia, and Salernitana, but there is a great disparity between those outfits and the Villarreal’s of the world.
In case you were unaware, Inter Milan are certainly more in the Villarreal category (and some). Hence, Max Allegri and his side will have to show a bit of backbone as they look to cement a place, not only in the top four, but higher up still, and maybe even top of the heap entirely.
While the Old Lady is sitting in fourth place with 59 points, Inter are currently only a point ahead, and Simone Inzaghi will wish to enlarge that gap a bit further this weekend as they attempt to get their Scudetto charge back on track. The likes of Lautaro Martinez will aid that cause and give the backline of Juventus something to think about all match long. But if Juventus can find a way past them, there is certainly room to attack the likes of Napoli, who visit fifth-placed Atalanta this weekend, and Milan at the top.
Juventus need Dusan Vlahovic in matches like this – not against Salernitana
This is a match in which Dusan Vlahovic will have to make his presence felt. Villarreal were able to keep him very quiet after his record-breaking opener in the first leg, and Inter’s back three will try to do much the same. Although, the Nerazzurri could be without Stefan de Vrij for Sunday’s derby.
The biggest players, however, shine brightest against the best competition, and so the young number nine will have to play up to the moment. He is not alone though either, and his teammates will have to come to his aid.
Moise Kean has been a ghost relatively speaking, and while Alvaro Morata has quality, and perhaps enough to remain in Turin, we’ve rarely seen him step up when it matters most.
Federico Bernardeschi must continue to acclimate back into matches and this Juventus side, while in the middle of the park, there must be greater innovation by the likes of Adrien Rabiot, Arthur Melo and Manuel Locatelli. There must be creativity and imagination linking the play from back to front, and without those engines in the middle of the pitch, it hardly matters what kinds of fancy firepower a team has upfront.
In a year where the Old Lady is amid a period of transition, getting nearer to the top position in the race for the Scudetto would be a relatively impressive achievement for Allegri and this Bianconeri side. Winning a domestic double somehow would also bring brighter rays of sunshine to this campaign, but whether it is in Serie A or the Coppa Italia, they will never win a thing unless they can beat the very best Italy and Europe have to offer.
This season, Juventus are yet to win a single game against the current top five in Serie A (D5, L2). That dire record has to change this weekend if Allegri’s side are to mount a late assault for the title with their schedule easing up down the stretch.
There will have to be a further reload and rebuild this summer. This is understood and will only make the team better in the future. While the team haemorrhages money, that is only a temporary issue that the team continues to work around creatively. But for the rest of this season, if this team wants to win trophies, they will have to beat teams like Inter and Milan. Their freshest test regarding this will be this weekend and they have to rise to the occasion, or else show the world that they are not yet where they wish to be, even in Italy.