Wednesday December 9 2020
Juve: what a difference a game makes

Juventus dominated Barcelona and overturned the two-goal deficit suffered in Turin, Rocco Fasano examines some of the factors that made this reverse fixture so different.


Ninety-third minute of regulation. Ronaldo crosses the ball in the heart of the Juventus box. A whistle. Pandemonium. Match official Michael Oliver sees a push by Benatia on Vazquez. Penalty. Buffon is expelled. Ronaldo steps up and the rest is history. 

These are the images that Juventus fans had seared in their retinae of Juventus' last attempted remuntada, or comeback, in Spanish territory. With pride in their hearts and tears in their eyes, Juventus and their fans saw a historic comeback crumble in added time at the hands of an officiating decision. 

For intellectual honesty, it was the right decision.

A few fans - not yours truly, a perennial pessimist (I say, realist) - thought that Juventus would snatch first spot away from Barcelona on match day six of group G of the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League. Fewer still would have thought so on the heels of a Barcelona whose Champions League performances were to their La Liga performances as Dr. Jekyll was to Mr. Hyde. 

The same team, troubled in domestic competition, would transform upon hearing the Champions League anthem into the storied, goal-scoring machine known to everyone for the better side of two decades. Minnows Ferencvaros, and the less storied Dynamo Kiev suffered sound beatings at the hands of Leo Messi & Co. It's hard to argue with aggregate scores of 8-1 to the Hungarian champions and 6-1 to the Ukrainian side.

The Catalan side showed little sign of the critical moment they were suffering in La Liga when they took on Juventus in Turin on October 28. It took less than two minutes for the Blaugrana to expose a Juventus that were rattled, nervous, insecure. First Demiral gave away a ball to Messi whose shot was saved by Wojciech Szczesny, and after Miralem Pjanic forced the Juventus goalkeeper who was beaten by Antoine Griezmann on the ensuing play just to see the ball ping off the post. Only 10 minutes later Ousmane Dembele put the visitors ahead with a deflection.

Truth be told, Barcelona should have been ahead by two goals already, and could have doubled their lead, had it not been for bad luck and near misses by Dembele, Messi and Griezmann. In the second half, a clumsy foul by Federico Bernardeschi on Ansu Fati sealed Juve's fate: 2-0 was the final result for the Spanish side.

Juventus were utterly lost, dejected, leaderless, and Ronaldo-less. Their spirit was embodied in Paulo Dybala. Save for false hope that Alvaro Morata's three goals, justly disallowed, Juventus produced little to recriminate, in terms of attitude, game play or chances created.


Fast forward to December 8, 2020: Barcelona-Juventus. Still reeling from a victory in the Derby Della Mole, through which the Bianconeri alternated a questionable first half to a more encouraging second half (attitude-wise); Pirlo’s side took on the group leaders attempting an unlikely ‘remuntada’. Like at the Bernabeu in April 2018.

Except this time, Juventus accomplished their mission. A resounding 3-0 victory featuring a stupendous ballistic feat by Weston McKennie who finished off a delicious counter attack, and two penalties by none other than Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored his first two goals against Barcelona in the Champions League (out of 132 career goals in the competition).

Truthfully, it can be said that the game against Torino was a trial run for a come-back in Barcelona: arguably the poorest first half under Pirlo's tutelage was alternated by an awakening which featured one of Juventus’ defining DNA qualities: hunger.

The resulting win against Torino (who have had a penchant for being on the wrong side of comebacks) perhaps gave Juventus a change in attitude, spurred by a new-found hunger for victory that had been missing.

Mentality and Maturity

Unlike the match against the Granata and the reverse fixture against Barcelona, Juventus demonstrated from kick off a "winning mentality". They were simply determined to win the match not to win the group (which came as a consequence of the magnitude of the victory) but to prove to themselves that this team was mature enough to win big in a storied side’s home.

Winning in Barcelona was a rite of passage for this group of players. An opportunity to demonstrate this group's growth so far and margin for improvement.

Man Selection

One cannot ignore that the Juventus that featured in the reverse fixture were missing the character and determination of key starters like Alex Sandro, Matthijs De Ligt and Cristiano Ronaldo. Their presence at the Camp Nou was by no stretch the be-all and end-all but it was certainly felt, and went to enrich Morata, McKennie and Juan Cuadrado's good spells. 

The Competition

Italians often have the bad habit of downplaying success, especially that of others. For intellectual honesty, one must admit that perhaps the La Liga's version of Barcelona was seen at the Camp Nou and not the Champions League’s.

Without Fati, Dembele and Gerard Piqué but with Messi, Griezmann, and interesting youngsters who shined in Turin, like Pedri, the Catalans showed all of the limits that saw them fall domestically to Cadiz, both Madrid sides and Getafe.

The Blaugrana dominated possession but failed for the most part to produce the multitude of scoring chances seen in Turin in late October.

Defensive Phase

Juventus recorded (only) their 5th clean sheet of the season. Full credit goes to their defensive phase, which left little to show for Barcelona's 712 passes and 59% ball possession. The exceptional time that the home side did get through (7 shots on goal on 20 total), they found goalkeeping veteran and legend Gigi Buffon ready. The Juventus seen in Turin were rattled and looked like conceding on every one of Barcelona's 13 shots at goal in that game.

"Spotting one sparrow doesn't mean it's Spring" as we say in Italian. Juventus have not "become" yet, but are "becoming". A convincing win in Barcelona is courtesy of hunger, improved mentality, better available players and a good defensive phase. It can prove to be a rite of passage for a newly minted coach of a younger Juventus side that may just be coming into their own.


Have your say...
This might not be the best Barcelona side but Barcelona is Barcelona they had great players there messi,Griezmann,Dejong,pjanic and so on and don’t forget they beat juve in Turin.

For me it’s not that juve won the match it’s how they did it damn it’s been sometime since i seen an away team play like that,

People say premier league is the best in the world I have never seen an english side dominate Barcelona or Real Madrid Italian teams have in so many occasions.
on the 14th December, 2020 at 8:13pm

yo genius, you beat a side thats 10th in their league and has already lost multiple times this season

stop acting like its 2015 Barca
on the 13th December, 2020 at 8:31pm
as assumed, to pinturicchio ad hominem = socratic method.
don't fear, no one is your equal
on the 13th December, 2020 at 12:45am
Jono, I rate your knowledge of football as “below average”. 10 Serie A sides would have beaten Barca at Camp Nou where they hadn’t lost a Champions League match in 37 games stretching back to 2013? Teams such as Inter for instance? You sir, are a clown.
on the 11th December, 2020 at 10:55am
@Idiot with a name like Error

No one is casting aspersions on FI or trolls like Jono unilaterally. Unless you've been living under a rock for the better part of the last decade, you'd know every bit I've mentioned in my comment is true. FI basically lives off of Juventus' doings, highs and lows.

And before you BS others, at least have the courtesy to check yourself - it's not racking, it's RAKING, as in ‘rake leaves in a garden’.

Sheesh, you'd think people would have common sense by now.
on the 11th December, 2020 at 8:14am
Ee Bah Gum. Barca may not be world beaters anymore. But Juve aren't exactly vintage-1996 are they? I saw the derby game. Even with the improved 2H mentality it was hardly inspired. Toro was tired & all over shop. This performance was a vast improvement. It had genuine quality & confidence with Buffon like Superman, Master Mckennie, excellent & everywhere, King Arthur & knight Cuadrado. It was nice to see an Italian team dominate a Spanish side again, for a change! P.S Loved Juve's revenge tweet!
on the 11th December, 2020 at 5:16am
Juve suck plain and simple last UCL 1996 Ronaldo garbage as usual juve going nowhere in a hurry only place is home soon getting worse by year. Well said Jono Barca was soft and 2 soft penalties which juve use too. This juve is a useless and if they were to do something go back to home grown players and get rid of the crap they call team or players starting with selfish Ronaldo wot do anything or help them when they need.
on the 11th December, 2020 at 1:53am
Jono is not all that incorrect - best way to argue a point is to take his thoughts in good faith, then support or dismantle, your choice.
now for the aspersions:
don't you kinda feel like an old kook in a rocker? 'Hogwash!'
don't you wanna hide your whingeing envy 'racking in the moolah'? check their pockets, not sure there's more than a few shekels clanging about - closer to pro bono, guessing.
maybe FI needed a moment to gather thoughts on Sig. Rossi? and they memoriam posted
on the 10th December, 2020 at 9:25pm
Well done Juve. I'm glad they were able to win the group because it means they avoid Real, Bayern, PSG and all the EPL teams. So long as they don't get complacent like last season, they could progress well into the competition.
on the 10th December, 2020 at 4:58pm
Juventus rock. Well deserved victory.
on the 10th December, 2020 at 4:15pm
Ok, hold on there now....

Yes, the penalty decision in Madrid was not incorrect but the truth of the matter is, a more experienced and nuanced referee would more than likely not have awarded it for such an infringement, because to do so with any degree of consistency in a game, would result in a penalty being awarded every 10 minutes!

The reaction from the Italian side was however, totally unjustifiable but non the less, understandable in the heat of the moment.

on the 10th December, 2020 at 1:51pm
I love Juve's #1 but I can't help but feel that #77 does a better job directing the defence thereby solidifying it.
on the 10th December, 2020 at 1:04pm
The most remarkable aspect of the game was not the win - it was how far Juve have come since that 2-0 loss in Turin. Juve were moving the ball quicker, passing was more fluid, defence seemed more assured, and midfield seemed energised. The only strange thing about that game was that Morata was not on the score sheet. That is not to say, they are favourites to win the whole thing - but it does give a glimpse of the type of football they are capable of plying.
on the 10th December, 2020 at 12:02pm
@Jono, you look pathetic with your pessimistic comment. NO! We don't agree with you. It's never been easy to win 3-0 at Camp Nou.
on the 10th December, 2020 at 11:28am
Very sad news about Rossi. The'82 finals was probably the best ever IMO. That was back when international football seemed to matter more, now the clubs (some) have all the power.
on the 10th December, 2020 at 11:24am
That final paragraph says it all: Juve "are becoming". Nothing more, nothing less. No reason to overexaggerate things, this all-new Juve team didn't become great all of a sudden, nor is the team weak. Pirlo and his players need time, that convincing win on Tuesday only shows that there clearly are signs of improvement. At this stage, what more can we ask for? The team has tremendous potential - which, to put it simply, is great news for us Juventini :-)
on the 10th December, 2020 at 10:48am
@Jono Milan lost to Lille in EL, A team that has never got past the round of 16 in Champions League. Milan has also gotten 8 penalties in 10 matches in Serie A with 4 of those beeing soft. Napoli lost to AZ Alkmaar in EL, but you think these teams would beat, and top a grp with Barcelona... LOL
on the 10th December, 2020 at 10:29am
Pathetic 1-dimensional trolls like Jono are allowed to comment hogwash on this site, and Football-Italia cannot stop even for 1 second to not rake in the moolah of every thing Juventus does.

Juventus scraped a victory over Torino? Blog it now!

Juventus defeated Messi's Barca? Blog, now!

Pirlo seen celebrating a hard-fought victory? Blog, blog, now, now!!

Seriously, what a sham you are, FI.

PS: Where's the in memoriam article for Paolo Rossi, huh? Nothing so far!
on the 10th December, 2020 at 9:49am
are you seriously acting happy to 'thrash' this Barca side thats TENTH in La Liga?

Sure Pirlo rocks, keep him, makes it funnier for the rest of the league
on the 10th December, 2020 at 8:52am
I bet most of the top 10 Serie A clubs would have battered this version of Barcelona too. Juve will have to improve if they have any ambition of winning Serie A or advancing from the round of 16. They won't be paired with Ferencvaros in February. They've even been lucky in Serie A being gifted 3 pts for the Napoli match. For the time I'm not buying the hype of this meager accomplishment. Let's see if Juve pick up their game in the future. For the moment I rate them below average.
on the 10th December, 2020 at 6:26am
Am I the only one who was not convinced by this performance? Barcelona are a team in crisis. They sit 9th place in La Liga with 4 losses and looked defeated before the game even started. Even so, Juve still struggled, only scoring after a (soft) penalty was won by Ronaldo. Both penalties, if not given, would likely not have led to goals. On top of that, Griezmann would have won a penalty if he had any determination at all to get back onside. Juve topped the easiest group in the CL.
on the 10th December, 2020 at 6:11am
Well done Juve, you did Serie A proud. Not the best Barca side but still a Barca side with Messi. With Atalanta and Lazio also through this is a lot more like it. I fear Inter will let the side down but 3/4 is not bad. Perhaps Juve should now focus on the Champions League and leave Milan to focus on the league!!!
on the 9th December, 2020 at 9:05pm
Injuries have been an issue all season. This game, he fielded the best possible formation with the best players to fill them.

Cuardrado works best further up the field, and the 3 man defense supports the 2 midfield. Arthur looked solid, and once he came off it looked like Juve had no forward movement.
on the 9th December, 2020 at 8:12pm

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