Coppa Italia: Quarter-final / Team rating: [7/10] / Top scorer: Cristiano Ronaldo (21) / Europe: Champions League quarter-final
Juventus secured an historic eighth straight Scudetto, but disappointed in the cup competitions this year despite signing Cristiano Ronaldo, writes Ciro Di Brita.
Another season passed and another Scudetto for Juventus, it was to be expected if you listened to the predictions of the of the pundits last summer. What wasn’t expected was their poor showing in both the Coppa Italia and the Champions League.
The three in a row Coppa holders bowed out at the quarter-final stage when they were easily dispatched by a rampant Atalanta side 3-0 at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia in January.
Things didn’t go much better in the Champions League either, as they went out at the same stage against a young and inexperienced yet bustling Ajax team. Losses in the group stage to a poor Manchester United side and Young Boys should have set the alarm bells ringing for Coach Max Allegri.
Perhaps the technician got a little bit too complacent as the games in the league became too easy and maybe he became too reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo to work on game plan and style of football that would see them lift Europe’s greatest prize.
A terrible night in Madrid where they were lucky to just lose by two goals to Atletico in the first leg of the Last 16, saw the knives being sharpened for not only Allegri, but the boardroom and the players.
Of course, in the second leg Ronaldo proved he was worth every penny of his transfer fee and massive wages when he grabbed himself a hat-trick and put the Bianconeri through to the quarter-finals.
Closer to home however, the Serie A campaign followed the usual path. They won their first eight games in a row before Genoa held them to a 1-1 draw at the Allianz Stadium at the end of October.
After that blip, they won another eight league matches on the bounce before a 2-2 draw with Atalanta in Bergamo on Boxing Day. An enthralling 3-3 draw with Parma arrived in February when a Gervinho brace saw the Gialloblu come back from two goals down to rescue a point in Turin.
The Champs’ first loss of the season didn’t arrive until St. Patrick’s Day, when perpetual thorn in the side Genoa snatched a 2-0 smash and grab victory thanks to Stefano Sturaro’s long range effort. The Grifone had only just paid Juve €18m for the midfielder in the winter transfer window and it looked like money well spent in that instant.
The league title was wrapped up around a couple of weeks later, but they had to wait until their 2-1 win over Fiorentina on April 20 to be officially awarded the Scudetto. An enjoyable moment for Bianconeri fans, lifting another against one of their most hated rivals.
Probably the deciding factor in this year’s title win was the ease with which they took care of the challenge from the big clubs, as Roma, Milan, and Inter were all easily dispatched in the first few rounds. Only in the matches against Napoli was there any hint of a potential loss on the cards, until in both ties the Partenopei were reduced to 10 men and were a Lorenzo Insigne missed penalty away from reopening the title race for maybe a split second.
Serie A has become a bit too simple for the Old Lady, but her hunger for winning the Champions League has become insatiable and could be the reason why Allegri and the club parted ways, his two Final appearances deemed not good enough. Can a team that has won the league eight times in a row be that worried about their playing style? Perhaps it is now time they get prepared for the much talked about potential Super-League.
The Coach – Max Allegri
The 51-year-old tactician announced that he would be stepping down as Coach of the Bianconeri at the end of the season, despite winning his fifth Scudetto in a row. Fans and pundits alike had begun to criticise his playing style and what they deemed as negative tactics, wishing the team would play a more attacking brand of football.
Player of the Year – Cristiano Ronaldo
The Portuguese superstar arrived to the sound of much fanfare in the summer, but had to wait until his fourth match in Italian football to get on the scoresheet. By the end of the season he had scored 21 times in 31 games, while providing 11 assists for his teammates.
Highlight – Juventus 3-0 Atletico Madrid
Juventus were soundly beaten 2-0 in the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie with Atletico Madrid and many people believed they were heading out of the tournament. However, Cristiano Ronaldo refused to read from that script, and he smashed in a stunning hat-trick to turn around the tie and send the Old Lady through to the next round.
Nightmare – Juventus 1-2 Ajax
The first leg of the Champions League quarter-final In Amsterdam ended 1-1 and the tie was in the balance going into the return game in Turin. Ronaldo opened the scoring in the first half, but Juve were soon pegged back as the young Dutch side well and truly outplayed the Old Lady. Goals from Donny van de Beek and Matthijs De Ligt put Ajax through to the semi-finals.
Did You Know?
- Only Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini remain in the squad from the first of the eight Scudetto wins, and Barzagli retired this summer.
- Cristiano Ronaldo is the first player ever to win the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A.
- Juventus become the first team ever to win eight consecutive titles in one of Europe’s top five leagues, surpassing the seven for Olympique Lyonnais.