Wednesday September 13 2017
One step forward, two steps back

Roma’s encouraging draw with Atletico Madrid was overshadowed by Juventus and Italy's heavy beatings to Barcelona and Spain, writes Jack Stevens.

Italy’s match against Spain at the beginning of September was more than just a qualifier. It was a chance for the Italians to test their new-look Azzurri against the best Europe had to offer, and it was a chance for them to assess their progress under Giampiero Ventura. Consequently, the 3-0 drubbing the Nazionale received was a kick in the teeth, a stark reminder that they have some big decisions to make come Russia in 2018.

However, while both countries share a rich and decorated history on the international stage, the pair play home to some of Europe’s finest clubs. Juventus’ Champions League tie with Barcelona was, by nature, a follow-on of the World Cup clash; two teams that represent national sporting heritage and accomplishment.

Barca however, like Juve, were a side with a point to prove. The Bianconeri’s supremacy over the Catalans last year, which consequently saw them reach the Final, was painful. Paulo Dybala’s masterclass swept the boys from Camp Nou away, but the same heights could not be reached in their rematch last night.

Barca’s summer of uncertainty could not have been any more different to Juve’s. The Bianconeri’s market saw them strengthen in depth and bring in a handful of prospects – a clear indication that they were planning for the future. However, after the Blaugrana’s dominant 3-0-victory last night, ‘juventini’ will be questioning whether they have in fact regressed rather than progressed.

A Leonardo Bonucci-less team is one thing, but the Old Lady’s inferior, subservient game after Lionel Messi slotted home the opener was wholly worrying. Barca’s hunger to ‘settle their debts’, as one Catalan newspaper reported, was overpowering, with the Turin outfit rolling over, unable to compete with the side they swept away with such ease last April.

The quest for Italian redemption stretched as far the Olimpico, with Eusebio Di Francesco and his Roma troops looking to do one better then their Turin counterparts, facing off against Diego Simeone’s dogged Atletico Madrid. Di Francesco made clear his admiration for Simeone before the game, stating that “from a mental perspective, Simeone’s done an incredible job.”

Atleti’s vastly superior Champions League experience counts for a lot, but given the talent Di Francesco had at his disposal, it promised to be a match won as much on the field as in the mind. The psychological battle in such clashes is often understated, and the former Sassuolo Coach’s exciting brand of football was a stark contrast to the very un-Spanish style that Simeone has entrenched in his side.

Ventura’s baffling tactical decision to understock the midfield against a notoriously-possession heavy Spain team did nothing to reinforce the notion that Italy remained the home of the greatest tacticians in football, yet Roma’s ability to match and nullify Atleti’s strategy gifted them a somewhat moral victory; proving to the Giallorossi that they could compete with the best.

Comparatively, the grudge match in Catalonia did not come close to the 0-0 stalemate in Rome which, in reality, suited both teams. Di Francesco’s first Champions League match was one which demonstrated his potential to mix it with Europe’s elite. Although, vitally for the Lupi, their ex-midfielder proved he had the confidence and nous to address European competition in a way that Luciano Spalletti never managed.

Italy and Spain will always be one of the most anticipated duels on the international stage, but at club level, the best the former had to offer just wasn’t enough. Teething problems for Max Allegri’s Juve meant they failed to match Barca, both on and off the pitch, with the Blaugrana’s insatiable desire to put right the wrongs of last season handing them superiority. Spanish football’s resurgence on the greatest stage of all proves that the Bianconeri and Italy may have taken one step forward and two steps back over the summer.

Have your say...
CI hangover?, lol, what other excuses will ppl think of next? I will tell you what the problem is: Allegri and to some extent Marotta. Take a good look at this team when they play and ask yourself what's their identity? whats their style? how do they play as a team? who are their leaders? where's their DNA? All I see is confusion on the field and mass confusion when they are loosing.
on the 15th September, 2017 at 1:30pm
I also think Juventus are suffering from Cl hangover which could be very scarring losing twice in 2 years conceding 7 goals in the process. They still have very good players with the standouts being Dybala and Costa. Higuain is not.a big game player but there is hope as CR7 used to be like that and now he is a big game player. Chiellini always getting injured whenever there are big games round the corner is a worry as Benatia is not up to it. GEP
on the 15th September, 2017 at 10:26am
Not to mention, Sarri is a big game choker and horrible at rotation but all the media loves him because he plays beautiful football..Serie A contenders? They might win it since Juve had their best defender poached, Roma changed coach and have a new DS and Milan are not scudetto material yet

People laugh but inter have Spalletti and if he manages to improve Icardi as much as he did Dzeko and with no European matches, they will shock everyone and win the scudetto.

No! I'm not an interista
on the 15th September, 2017 at 8:39am
a Varsavia

How long will it take for people to realize that just like Napoli, Sarri is a provincial "success"

Last season Napoli had one of the easiest groups (this year too) consisting of Benefica, Dynamo Kiev and Besiktas yet only managed to clinch it on the final day.

You say that in Naples, things will be different. Well considering that they only managed 1 win away from home last year, they better hope so. This time they can't expect to get easy wins vs Man City which I predict 2 loses!
on the 15th September, 2017 at 8:26am
Regarding Shakhtar Donetsk vs Napoli 2:1 pls remember Bayern lost 2:3 to Rostov last CL season, so you never know with those ex-Soviet teams as they improved in terms of monies and players with no foreign (non-EU) players' limits in the squad. Things'll look VERY differently in Naples :-))
on the 14th September, 2017 at 6:41pm
@ dami: Disagree that Dybala is overrated. He's fantastic. The whole squad is suffering from CL hangover. Second loss in three years really damaged Juve psychologically. Going into the final they were on a tear, and then 1-1 at halftime against Real was nothing to panic about. Then something happened in the second half and the team broke. It hasn't been the same and Bonucci's departure hasn't helped. Something is not quite right with them. As to Milan winning the CL before they do, I agree;-)
on the 14th September, 2017 at 3:39pm

"Pipita was the best poacher in the world under Sarri."

See guys, this is what happens when you run out of excuses and need make things up.
on the 14th September, 2017 at 10:50am
"Dybala again showed he is overrated"


and just 5 months ago he was the star of this very same fixture, in an even more important stage.

Funny how some rival fans have selective memories...
on the 14th September, 2017 at 10:11am

Best poacher in the world bahahhahahahaha

yes mustfart best in the world, by miles.
on the 14th September, 2017 at 8:52am
Juve only have few old Italians and the result will be weak Azzurri.AS ROMA salute for drawing emphasizes the Italian mentality of playing not to lose rather than trying to win with style and this explain why Juve loses heart after conceding and never fight back like most Italian teams,if they concede the plan is gone rather than trying to fight it out.its been like that for ages and no indications of change can be seen,Italian football refuses change!
on the 14th September, 2017 at 6:55am
@dame is your idiotic brain capable of any other comment . Jeez nobody cares you dont need to keep saying it . We know your team has 39 trophies overall and its ok. Its ok to have 39 trophies we want you to know that.
on the 13th September, 2017 at 11:44pm
And Napoli lost tonight.
Juve can reflect on how the Barca loss came to be (Allegri mentioned how hasty we were, plus injuries) and that's why I'm not worried. Roma in the end still held Atletico to a point.

Napoli have no such excuses. Shakhtar is one of the weaker sides and they should've beaten them. With their group having Pep's City as well, Sarri better produce results for once. Let's not forget Napoli finished behind Roma last season, and they haven't shown any improvement at all
on the 13th September, 2017 at 9:35pm
idiots and trollers talk about bad Higuaín performance where he played with the very little resources he had. You need to understand that only a jerk cannot deploy a world-class striker correctly, and only the same jerk would play a world-class defender as a right back.

Pipita was the best poacher in the world under Sarri. Ask yourself why.
on the 13th September, 2017 at 5:33pm
Higuain was a great domestic purchase for Juve, guarantees 25+ Serie A goals a season but they should go in a different direction in UCL as he doesnt seem to add much. Dybala again showed he is overrated. I still feel Juve's biggest mistake in recent times was letting Vidal go, they haven't looked the same in mdf since his departure. As for Roma I was expecting them to get smashed so a draw is a good result for them as they are not UCL quality.

Milan will still win the UCL again before Juve.
on the 13th September, 2017 at 5:16pm
The problem with Italy is lack of talent simple as that. What made Italy great was their defense. Since 2006 they have also been trying to be more attacking and entertaining, which does not work. Italy need to go back to what made them great and produce great center backs period. Defending is in their DNA, Italy's only way to get back to the top is through their defense, period. If they had Cannavaro and Nesta in their prime they would have never lost to Spain so easily.
on the 13th September, 2017 at 4:59pm
Real Madrid broke Rubentus hahahahaha
on the 13th September, 2017 at 3:04pm
Italian teams (Serie A and Azzurri) always do badly in September due to lack of playing-time. Surely no one thought that Juve would beat Barca? And with so many injuries and new players, a thrashing was always on the cards.

Higuain, admittedly, was a bit rubbish, but look at the positives - Betancur was genuinely really good, making raking passes, spotting space, and playing with a composure that belied his years. Douglas Costa was electric in that first half - a real CL upgrade for the team.
on the 13th September, 2017 at 2:38pm
My team tucked their tails in fine fashion yesterday. It's becoming a trademark of Allegri's Champions league Juventus teams. Shameful display for a squad as talented as this one. I am sure once they integrate their new players in properly, they'll take a step forward.
on the 13th September, 2017 at 2:18pm
@ Rosario

Yes, Roma weren't brillinat, but it is possible to have a defender and a keeper of the same team to both play well in the same game.
on the 13th September, 2017 at 1:38pm
I wish UEFA will take a disciplinary action against Higuain and ban him for the next 5 games or so just to show the world how unnecessary he is for this team. I would then put Sturaro in his spot and I know he can do tons better, just to make a mockery out of Higuain.
on the 13th September, 2017 at 12:57pm
@samaroma. Roma had one shot on target. At home? Peres running past full backs doesn't win football matches. Scoring goals do. Athleti had double the efforts on goal and double the shots on target. How could manolas have been so good, when the saviour was the keeper???
on the 13th September, 2017 at 12:49pm
Juve needs to move on from Higuain. Not UCL material. Can bag a brace or hat-trick against Genoa and Caligiari but cannot even move the ball against the big boys. Too predictable and slow. Time to move to a false 9 with Dybala supported by Douglas Costa, Bernardeschi / Cuadrado?
on the 13th September, 2017 at 12:40pm
I was happy with last ngiht. Bruno Peres ate Filipe Luis in every sense, literally breezing past him over and over again, and stopping him from launching counters. Manolas was incredible and Alisson has finally gotten over the beginner mistakes they made last season. We got lucky, but so did Atleti. If it was't for Oblak being another wonderful goalkeeper we would have been 2-0 up at half time. Atleti have left Chelsea, Bayern flat in recent years. We handled them. It can only get better.
on the 13th September, 2017 at 12:15pm
At the end of the day Spanish teams such as RM and Barca have been state funded for around 25 yrs now hence the resurgence of Spanish clubs over the last 25 years (they didn't win a CL from 66' to 92' but from 98' till now have won 10, over half) so it's nigh on impossible for Italian clubs to compete. The spanish national side has obviously benefited from this state funding as well as a lot of money has been ploughed into youth development (they won 1 European Championship in 64)!!
on the 13th September, 2017 at 11:59am
Juve will recover, there's not much to worry about at this point. The likes of Mandzukic and Chiellini were really missed in a game like this. Anyway, Juve need to get at least 7 but preferably 9 points from the next 3 games, qualify for the next round and then anything can happen.
As for Roma they will probably finish 3rd but still can have a good run in the Europa League.
on the 13th September, 2017 at 11:35am
I don't think last night will damage Juve or Italy's football in the slightest!

Juve had loads of first team players not playing (Marchisio, Khedira, Mandzukic, Chiellini, Cuadrado) these players can and have made a massive impact when playing.

Juve had almost a new team playing last night, we all know a new team doesn't gel after 1 match!

Yes Barca played better obviously, Messi pulling the strings.

Last night doesn't deserve Juve being so badly criticized. Forza Juve!!!
on the 13th September, 2017 at 11:33am
A defeat's a defeat. I'm just not taking it as hard as others despite the score.

De Sciglio's injury played a factor in the defeat, but that's due to poor planning of the squad dropping a 1st choice RB in the first place. Replacing him with Sturaro was the beginning of the end.

So defence was a problem but attack wasn't better. ter Stegen made saves mostly because we rushed our shots often, especially from distance.

It's far too early to panic, because I still saw a great team yesterday.
on the 13th September, 2017 at 11:30am
It should be no surprise to anyone to see teams from every other league losing to the Spanish.

Over the best part of the last decade, Spanish club sides and national team have wiped the floor with everyone else.

The epl is like a Hollywood blockbuster - all hype and marketing but not up to much in the end.

Serie A is underrated compared to the epl, but it's not up to it either - on or off the field.

Germany don't seem to have much to offer either,while PSG might do OK with a good team
on the 13th September, 2017 at 11:02am
It's still September. And this was the 1st match of the group stage.

Barca played with pretty much the same team that played against Juve 5 months ago and lost by 3.

Juve? Dani Alves, Chiellini, Bonucci, Mandzukic, Cuadrado, Khedira are all missing..
..that's more than half the team.

Juve also had to make a change of shape after De Sciglio's injury.

I'm not happy with the performance or the tactics.. and mostly the attitude. But I won't dramatize the situation more than it needs to..
on the 13th September, 2017 at 10:55am
Roma were lucky to get the draw, massive difference in class. expect them to get thrashed 3/4-0 in spain
on the 13th September, 2017 at 10:53am

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