Thursday April 19 2018
Pressure back on Juve now

With the Champions League gone and Napoli closing in, Juventus simply cannot afford to get the Scudetto showdown wrong, writes Adam Digby.

There is no escaping the fact that Juventus were fully focused on the Champions League this season. Just as it has in the previous three campaigns, UEFA’s elite competition has dominated the club’s planning, their approach to other games and of course Max Allegri’s team selection on a week-to-week basis. The recent quarter-final clash with Real Madrid proved that beyond all doubt, the Coach and his players very clearly taking their attention away from domestic matters in the matches surrounding that two-legged tie.

They would deny that of course and trot out the “one game at a time” cliche, yet insisting that their performances against SPAL, Benevento and Crotone were not affected by their heartbreaking loss to Los Merengues is an almost laughable notion. All three games saw the Bianconeri field weakened line-ups, Gigi Buffon and Giorgio Chiellini making just one appearance each as the trio of relegation candidates all troubled the Old Lady.

Two ended in draws, while Juve were forced to come from behind against Benevento, and if they had won each of those outings, a seventh consecutive Serie A title would be almost guaranteed. But they failed to do so, instead heading into Sunday’s clash with Scudetto rivals Napoli just four points behind them and hungry for victory, adding an extra layer of intrigue into a match already heavily laced with it.

Maurizio Sarri’s side struggled themselves on Wednesday evening, forced to come from behind twice against a surprisingly resilient Udinese team who had lost in each of their previous nine league outings. Buoyed by that victory and the fact that Juve dropped points once again, they will head to Turin full of hope, ready to pounce on any sign of weakness from the reigning champions, who must be prepared for the intensity Napoli will undoubtedly be carrying.

Allegri has insisted his team “must get off to a good start,” but this game will be much more about maintaining their concentration for 95 minutes. Having conceded in injury time in that aforementioned game at the Bernabeu, the Bianconeri should know that better than anyone, but as they prepare to host what is unquestionably a title-deciding fixture, there are a number of important questions lingering.

Miralem Pjanic missed the Crotone trip due to the injury he suffered against Sampdoria, and without the Bosnia international, the team lacks fluidity and direction in midfield. After all, he also missed the first leg against Real Madrid and it really showed. Claudio Marchisio – who should be the ideal stand-in – looked far short of his best at the Stadio Scida, a problem that could put huge pressure on Rodrigo Bentancur’s young shoulders.

The same is true at right-back, Mattia De Sciglio’s absence leaving a gaping hole which Lorenzo Insigne will need no invitation to exploit, and at the other end of the field the Bianconeri need their Argentinian duo to shine once again. They have looked sharper without Paulo Dybala in recent weeks, most notably in Madrid when he was suspended, but Gonzalo Higuain will need to rediscover the form that has made him a nightmare opponent for his former club.

Scoring five goals in five encounters since leaving the Partenopei, his recent outings have been nowhere near that level. After a nine-game stint in which he weighed in with 10 goals and three assists, Higuain has gone six matches without finding the back of the net, but will be desperate to get on the scoresheet this weekend.

Not losing would see them remain in the box seat as 2017-18 comes to a close, but a win would certainly lift the sombre post-Madrid mood in Turin, where Juventus can silence every doubt by winning against their only domestic rival.

Have your say...
you mus take peoples, for a ride, you make the same mistakes, over,and over again, keep the system that works. you have players in the bench for what???
on the 23rd April, 2018 at 1:30pm
Disagree. The pressure is all on Napoli because they are the ones who are 4 points behind and must win this game. A draw would suit Juve just fine.
on the 22nd April, 2018 at 12:06pm
With Juventus fan boy Rocchi officiating it'll be difficult for Napoli but not impossible. What were they thinking of - Rocchi? You couldn't make it up lol!!
on the 20th April, 2018 at 9:03pm
a little pressure never hurt anyone.but I fully expect juve to win the league title. there is a bigger issue at hand. dybala. he is best when played centrally. that is why he struggles in a 4-3-3. he is not a winger.right now juve has cuadrado, bernadeshi, costa, and lets not forget pjaca on loan. all these wingers. in the offseason juve needs to buy 2 strong midfielders like a Fabiano,SMS so a 4-2-3-1 which accommodates everyone can play
on the 20th April, 2018 at 8:44am
Big, big pressure on Napoli !!!!

They are 4 points behind mighty Juventus!!!

No mean feat to live with that kind of massive pressure for perennial "seconda fascia" Napoli.................
on the 20th April, 2018 at 5:24am
Napoli ? If napoli win so what ? A. Juventus will still have 70 titles B. Napoli will still be useless. That is all that will happen lol
on the 20th April, 2018 at 12:42am
If Napoli are to become champions, this is a game they must win, and should set out to win. They have to beat the best to become the best.

Crotone have given Napoli a lifeline, and there can be no more excuses. Napoli have the easier run-in after this game, so 3 points would be unreal.
on the 19th April, 2018 at 9:16pm
If Juve are insane enough to drop Dybala they are virtually handing Napoli the points. I am fearful about the match but my fingers are firmly crossed. Good news is that Sturaro won't be playing - just hope the other midfield loser
( Bentancur ) is out too. What a waste he is.
Juve need to improve 30% on their performance the other night to win. If they can do that victory will be theirs - Napoli aren't invincible. But I have a bad feeling. Would settle for a draw at this point.
on the 19th April, 2018 at 8:55pm
I think its good that the situation ended up like this
it would make for a good finish to the season. logically though, I think Juve will edge out victory or definately draw the game.
on the 19th April, 2018 at 7:16pm
I expect a very cautious and cagey game which might end in a draw. But who knows.

Oh, and De Sciglio’s absence is a blessing. I don't see how anyone can see that as a problem for Juve.

As for Marchisio not looking sharp in the last game.. well, when was the last time he played a full 90? I really don't understand why Allegri is ignoring him.

Anyway, Higuain will score. Always fired up vs Napoli.
on the 19th April, 2018 at 4:45pm
I wish Napoli have the fortitude to go to Turin and win so as to make this race really exciting. I have my doubts though as they have proved in the past that mentally they are not just up to it. This is a not a great Juve side as no matter what the writer says, not being able to beat Spal and Crotone has nothing to do with Madrid just lack of ability and in their case surprising lack of ruthlessness. They have let a stumbling Napoli back into the race. This could turn out to be like Lazio 99/00
on the 19th April, 2018 at 4:32pm
If we want the scudetto we'll have to tear it away from Rubventus. Their stadio has been a fortress, time to tear it down
Forza Napoli Sempre!!
on the 19th April, 2018 at 4:08pm
A really interesting game coming up. I think even a draw would put lots of pressure for Juve playing Inter and Roma who are playing hard for extra points to get into the Champions league.
on the 19th April, 2018 at 3:59pm
A Juve win on Sunday and it's all over.

A draw will make it near impossible for Napoli, but still in with a shot as Juve are away to Inter and Roma who are both desperate for points.

A win for Napoli in Turin will put them in with a real shout of being champions.

It'll be interesting to see if Napoli have the nerve to go and win there instead of rolling over to Juve like so many teams do.
on the 19th April, 2018 at 3:06pm

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