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Monday February 8 2021
Juventus preparing for Europe

Juventus may not be among the Champions League favourites, but Elio Salerno explains why the Old Lady have tools that are suited to European football.

Juventus’ run of fine form in recent weeks was brought to an abrupt end in Naples on Saturday evening.

A lacklustre defeat at the hands of Gennaro Gattuso’s side put the brakes on what has been a positive period of performances and results for Andrea Pirlo.

Despite a below par display, it was a game The Old Lady arguably still could have won, instead they fell to an avoidable defeat and find themselves yet further back in the Serie A title race.

With important fixtures coming thick and fast, the Bianconeri will have quickly focused their attention on Wednesday’s Champions League tie with Porto.

A trip to Portugal in Europe’s elite football competition provides Pirlo with the perfect bounce-back opportunity. It is perhaps somewhat of an understatement to say that this particular tournament has not treated Juve well over the years and along with the excitement of its return, Juventini could be forgiven for feeling a slight sense of apprehension as another knock-out stage commences.

The trophy with the big ears has evaded Juve for longer than they’d like to admit and even in this the most unpredictable of football seasons, it is hard to envisage that changing this time around.

However, with that being said the Italian champions certainly have enough quality to make their presence felt and run deep into the competitions latter stages. So what does Mister Pirlo need to do in order for that to become a reality?

Goals….

Domestically the score chart doesn’t make for good reading. Juventus are currently on 41 goals in Serie A, the sixth highest amount in the league with Cristiano Ronaldo responsible for a huge 39% of them.

Poor decisions and finishing around the box are certainly factors. Juve are second only to Roma when it comes to big chances created in Serie A but top the list with regards to big chances missed and sit fourth for average shots on target per game.

They are also the only team to have two individual players in the top eight when it comes to big chances missed (Cristiano Ronaldo 13 and Alvaro Morata 9). Last weekend’s loss was a microcosm of Juve’s issues in front of goal. A total of 23 attempts, just 6 on target and an xG of 2.16 but no goals to show for it.

The Champions League has proven to be a somewhat different story so far - needless to say it is based on a smaller sample size – Juve have been more efficient in attack.  Averaging over two goals per game, scoring 14 in six outings, boasting the group stages joint top scorer (Morata 6) and leading assist provider (Juan Cuadrado 5).

Comparing the same metrics as before, Juve do not register in the top 10 with regards to big chances created or big chances missed whilst averaging just over five shots on target per game (10th highest). However, Pirlo’s side were the group stages fifth highest scoring club, impressively netting nine away from home, including three in Camp Nou.

Juve will need to stay on the goal trail if they wish to progress beyond this round and the rounds to come. Perhaps a desperation to catch-up in the league is causing players to lock-up in goal scoring situations, the pressure felt is possibly less than when they perform on the continent. The ability to strike quickly and effectively has been vital in the Champions League in recent years, something Juve have previously struggled with but if they can maintain the attacking intent they have shown so far in Europe, then they give themselves a chance.

Intensity…

Over the last month we have seen Pirlo deploy a somewhat pragmatic approach on occasions to get results and whilst that can be effective in Serie A, it is not proven to succeed in the Champions League.

Tactical flexibility is important but intensity and ambition to dominate remain fundamental if you wish to reach the final stages. To his credit, Pirlo has attempted to adopt this strategy on his maiden European adventure. Juve have taken risks, they’ve played on the front foot. This has meant sacrificing certain spaces on the pitch, ultimately leading them to concede attacks and a number of shots on their goal. Wojciech Szczesny has been a busy goalkeeper. However, the positive is that they were reasonably successful playing this way in Group G.

Pirlo’s men sought to recover the ball in the opponent’s half, coming in joint 6th for the amount of times they won possession in the final third.

Pirlo’s pressing system is far from flawless and the strength of the teams that they have faced so far must be taken into consideration, but continuing to play with that purpose is pivotal. Juve must be brave with their positioning, keep being aggressive in the tackle whilst attempting more pressures in the middle and final thirds of the pitch.

They cannot fall into the trap of surrendering control of the game, if they choose to defended deep it must be on their terms.

Juventus may not be regarded as one of the best teams in the competition and they need to mask their deficiencies, but within the squad they possess tools that are suited to Champions League football.

It is up to Pirlo to embrace the likes of Morata, Federico Chiesa, Weston McKennie and Matthijs de Ligt, players that are capable of pushing the team’s tempo and stamping their authority on the opposition. 

If we know one thing about the Champions League, circumstance is everything. If you arrive in the moment in the right way, anything is possible.

@ElioSalerno87

Have your say...
@ Kledi

The slide in Serie A set in about 21 years ago, actually. A slide they've never recovered from.

Yes, it may be on the rise (thought nothing to get excited about yet), but Italy has had 7 finalists from the 84 spots available since 2000 - Spain have had 7 finalists since 2016.

As for Juve winning it as you said - they'd need to wake up pretty quick lol. They're 2 - 0 down with yet another dreadful performance from an Italian side in Europe
on the 17th February, 2021 at 9:35pm
@ JUVE PAYED 40 MILLION FOR BERNARDESCHI

Will be awesome if inter could win it this year ????
on the 17th February, 2021 at 5:58pm
Juve will never win the UCL, until juve can win a scudetto free and clear they will not win anything outside domestically. Ronaldo will not help he is actually hurting the team because he is a selfish player. Juve got lucky with the Porto draw. Until they can grind out wins without officiating assistance year after year then u can see success. People complain and say what assistance but look at what it has done to the team.
on the 17th February, 2021 at 4:28pm
As a result of their good form in da group stage, Juve
got what they needed - a weaker opponent in 1/8 finals. So, they must crush Porto
Too bad La Dea don't have Papu any more - he could've been decisive in Real game! But they still have very good chances, if they're concentrated & play good defense, as we know the attack isn't a problem!
When it comes 2 Lazio, on a good day they can beat anyone, unless they leave too many holes in the defense - Bayern would use 9 our of 10 such defensive slops
on the 17th February, 2021 at 3:54pm
JUVE PAYED...

If reaching a final doesn't matter then why did u mention what Roma have done 3 years ago and Atalanta last year? Surely reaching a final twice recently outdoes anything they've done? Your contradicting yourself

As for Lazio in 1999, give me a break lol. That was a pre-season friendly game, nothing more.

u seem more interested in just having a go at Juve. juve are the ONLY Italian side in the last decade to be somewhat consistent in the Ch Lge - the rest have been shameful
on the 17th February, 2021 at 1:22pm
Roma reached CL semi finals three years ago, Atalanta reached quarterfinals last year.

Btw its not reaching finals thats the mark of succes lol. Its winning them.

Heres the las italian teams to bring home european silverware.

Inter 2010
Milan 2007
Milan 2003
Lazio 1999
Parma 1999
Inter 1998.

Theres only one italian club who havent managed to win anything in Europe when they are in their prime, and thats Juve.

This june it will be 25 years since Juve won.
on the 17th February, 2021 at 10:12am
Would be cool to see Juve's youngsters like Kulu, Chiesa, McKennie suprise the bigger teams and make a run in the competition, but it seems the squad is still finding itself and lacks consistency. I count 6 or 7 teams to be favourites above them, so quarter finals or further would be an achievement. Hope they don't underestimate Porto tomorrow and showcase some of their talented players to the rest of europe.
on the 17th February, 2021 at 4:52am
@Ferban you say 1 europa League in 21 years and that is correct.why don’t you say the record Italian teams had in champions league for the last 21 years,which it is 3 times winners and another 3 times finalist.it’s not great but it’s not bad either specially after what happened in 2006.

Italian football is on the rise.who’s to say juve can’t win it this year honestly I don’t see a team that is unbeatable.as for europa League.if Italian teams take it seriously they can win it.
on the 17th February, 2021 at 12:54am
@CG

Cheers. It's a pity, alright. Serie A has had 2 finalist in the CL in 10 years and 1 EL finalist in 21 years.

A shocking record. But it's hard to see who could win either comp. this season.

Hopefully Atalanta take note of PSG's hammering of Barca tonight. Atalanta need to forget about R Madrid's huge reputation and go out and tear into them.

Bayern's defence is poor, but it's hard to see Lazio getting anything. Juve should go through if they're attitude's up to it.
on the 16th February, 2021 at 10:13pm
Best piece I’ve read in a while. Real statistics and facts really help build the case around Pirlo’s tactical approach. I really enjoyed reading this. Forza Juve and hopes we win big tomorrow !!
on the 16th February, 2021 at 6:36pm
I don’t understand why people don’t think juve can actually win it this year....last year and the year before they had more belief which I don’t understand because juve have strengthened the team the only one that was good and juve let go is pjanic...but look at the players that have come in....Chiesa..kulusevski...meckennie...Morata....juve have every chance to win it no one is very strong this year...all teams can beat each other....as for Porto i don’t see them beating juve.
on the 16th February, 2021 at 4:46pm
Man City are strong defensively this season and I don't think anyone can stop them.
on the 16th February, 2021 at 3:59pm
FERBAN you are 100% correct. As much as we'd all love to see Juve winning it, the odds are just too much against it. Players like Rabiot, Ramsey, and especially, Bernardeschi. An inexperienced coach. Just don't see it
on the 16th February, 2021 at 3:48pm
Juve are the only Itaian side to make any decent inroads in the CL over the last decade

But this is one of the weakest squads they've had in some time, and certainly not as good as their 2015/17 teams that got to the final

That said, there aren't any really great teams in Europe. Bayern are favs, but weak at the back. The 2 Spanish giants are a shadow of what they were, Liverpool are in crisis, and always MC stumble

But it's still very hard to see a Serie A winner of the CL, unfortunately
on the 16th February, 2021 at 2:32pm

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