On the heels of a match in which nothing went right, Juventus collect a 2-1 loss and are sent home packing in an irritating (is there another way to characterise it?) display at the O Dragão Stadium in Porto.
Bentancur's unfortunate miscalculation sixty-three seconds after kick off opened the dances to what may be a key passage of Juve's 2020-21 Champions League. That notwithstanding, it's too easy to blame Bentancur.
This match is the offspring of a performance that evidenced a particular period of this 2020-21 Juventus: lacking in will, confidence, determination, character, ideas, and identity.
Sure, bad luck had its place: lack of form of key players like Morata, Cristiano Ronaldo, Giorgio Chiellini, Arthur and Weston McKennie; the aforementioned unfortunate touch by Bentancur, Paulo Dybala being a non-entity the entire season, and a clear penalty denied at the death.
This does not excuse, however, Juventus' poor period. Truth be told, the signs were there all along.
The defeats against Napoli, Inter, and Fiorentina among other performances show that the only constant in this Juventus is inconsistency.
Experiments are for scientists
Pirlo was hurled - yes, he's partly to blame because he accepted the challenge - into the position of coaching a group of tired, ageing superstars (chiefly senators like Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci) mixed with green, raw talent (like McKennie and Dejan Kulusevski) in a year with no preseason.
Il Maestro was therefore forced to perform his experiments "live". These featured wild additions from the U23 - chief among them Gianluca Frabotta - but produced lost points like the draws in Crotone and Benevento. The fruits - save the clumsy exploit against Genoa that catapulted Juve into the Coppa Italia quarter final thanks performances by members of the U23 team - are yet to be seen.
Inability to breakdown defences
Harmonious game play is hardly traceable. Pirlo has struggled to put his imprint on this Juventus. If he doesn't hurry, this team may sooner impose its imprint on him, and Maurizio Sarri knows something about that.
Like his predecessor, Pirlo is having a hard time breaking down stubborn defences - the match against Porto was no exception. Speed of play, and the ability to control game tempo - i.e., slow down and speed up game play, something il Maestro earned his nickname for - is lacking. The result is fruitless droning, mechanical, ball possession.
Yes, the actors aren't the right ones: Bentancur and Adrien Rabiot aren't Xavi and Andres Iniesta. But dynamism isn't only innate. It's an attitude.
Is it surprising that success has been witnessed this season when Juventus has espoused a tactic of containment and counter-attack against attacking sides?
Asynchronous defensive phase
Couple a stagnant offensive phase to an asynchronous defensive phase, and the disaster is complete. So much for Pirlo's talk of "reagression" - namely aggressively attacking the opponent to regain ball possession - in his coaching thesis, this characteristic has been mistranslated into this team. As a result the team looks arranged on the field in a disorderly fashion, and seldom defends as a solid unit.
Game plans gone awry, lapses in concentration leading to costly mistakes all come to match preparation. One is left with the distinct impression that there have been a few matches where the technical staff has let this aspect fall by the wayside.
The saving grace: How do you say "remuntada" in Portuguese?
The saving grace for Il Maestro is that Juventus brings home a result from which the bianconeri have the ability to come back from in the return match in Turin, which would save Juventus from a debacle in Mr. Pirlo's first season.
With a Coppa Italia final to play, a compromised position in Serie A, yet another elimination in the last 16 stage at the hands of an underdog (as per the betting houses) like Porto would be too much.