There was something in the air in the black and white half of Turin on Sunday. It was a sensation rarely felt since May 2011. Then it was another in a line of continual disappointments. This was more unexpected. After 49 Serie A games without tasting defeat, Juventus witnessed their run come to a screeching halt at the hands of bitter rivals Inter. Not since Parma’s 2-0 win in Week 37 of season 2010-11 had they placed a stroke in the L column. Nine games prior was the last home defeat, against Milan. Like a never-ending goods train Juventus chugged along undefeated.
Antonio Conte now faces a first in his Bianconeri stint – rebounding from a loss. They’ve lost before under the former captain, the Coppa Italia Final last term. But on that occasion they did not have to bounce back four days later. This loss dented their aura of invincibility, which Conte needs to drill into his players again. Perhaps he will turn to the mythical ‘bat of nails’ to gain the required reaction. It did wonders for joker in the pack Simone Pepe last season.
Short of greeting every player with a whack of the bat as they entered Vinovo after the loss, Conte would have reminded his squad at training that this season is no cruise, even for the deemed favourites. Recent performances – even if the right results were obtained – proved that. Saturday also proved that.
It followed the recent trend. Starting well, switching off then finishing with a late flurry. Perhaps after taking the lead Juventus expected to walk away with a win, after all it had occurred so many times during the past year. This was to be different. The Bianconeri were punished by a team in fine form who tactically out-thought the Turin giants. As they pushed at the death Juve were hit at the other end.
Captain Gianluigi Buffon felt Juventus were carefree. “I did not like our attitude after we went 1-0 up. I don’t understand why we sat there waiting for them outside our own box, we were far too carefree. In my view we could’ve dealt with the game differently, but after 15 minutes we just left the initiative to them.”
Not since the demolition of Roma have Juventus battered an opponent. Gone are the swashbuckling displays of 2011-12, replaced by in-part brilliance and individual moments. With the additions to the calendar it is to be expected the level of intensity will not remain at its peak constantly. And after the drop, it is up to Conte to remind the team only with hard work will they prevail.
Aside from the change in mentality, the visit of Nordsjaelland is a chance to alter personnel. Bring in players hungry to succeed, players with something to prove. Paul Pogba, Fabio Quagliarella and Mauricio Isla fit the bill. Another has been guaranteed a spot from the first whistle – Alessandro Matri will start in place of the injured Mirko Vucinic.
The Old Lady is aware anything less than a win over the Danes will signal the end of her Champions League campaign. This means snapping the European draw-a-thon. They must put Nordsjaelland to the sword, boosting confidence and qualification chances. Use anger of the weekend loss to spur them. Channel their inner-Conte and Juve will be on their way towards victory.
As Buffon indicated the run had to end at some point. In context of the Champions League, possibly it came at the right time as Juventus looks to rediscover their verve in a must-win circumstance. As far as Serie A is concerned, Juve remains first with the second best attack and equal-second best defence. One loss is not a disaster. They just need a reminder of what this Juventus is about.