And now all of us can truly exhale.
Juventus are through to the Round of 16 in the Champions League after their scoreless draw with Atlético Madrid in Turin on Tuesday night. Job done, nothing more nothing less. We can rage all we want about the overall performance and how Juventus took their foot completely off the gas in the second half. But you know what? Juventus is one of the 16 teams that will still be in Europe's premier club competition come early 2015.
That's a lot more than we can say compared to 12 months ago. So maybe that means Max Allegri is officially better than Antonio Conte because he made it out of the group stage? That's a different discussion for a different time.
But I digress.
Making it out of the group stage after being completely embarrassed and tossed into the Europa League last season was — and should have been — a huge priority for this team. And after the way they started things this year with two losses in the first three games, making it out is something to be happy truly about. That's it. Nothing to grumble about when it comes to being one of those funny bouncing balls at next Monday's draw.
.@gianluigibuffon: "Finishing first or second makes little difference. You’ll need to face the strongest teams sooner or later." #UCL— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) December 9, 2014
Juventus' group wasn't easy. We found that out when Juve stumbled in both Greece and Spain earlier in the group stage. But even with those two losses, they took care of business in the second half of the fixtures. They beat Olympiacos at Juventus Stadium, they won on the road against Malmö, then they did enough to get the necessary point against Atlético Madrid at home.
That is what was needed — and I'm perfectly okay with it.
Hey, biscotto does sound good as the sun pops out from the rain clouds where I'm sitting in my office chair. It worked for Juventus on Tuesday night, that's for sure.
Random thoughts and observations
- I'm just going to go ahead and leave this here and admire it.
- Seriously, though ... Juventus don't go through to the knockout round if it wasn't for Buffon's first-half performance. Three huge saves, including the spectacular one that is shown above. Just another day in the life of a man who so deservedly deserves the 'God' moniker.
- Atléti are a supremely defensive-minded team, and their shutout streak in the Champions League is reflective of that. So when they drop EVERYBODY behind the ball from what seemed like the opening whistle and don't change a damn thing, you pretty much know what they're going for.
- Over 67 percent of the possession, just 11 total shots. That's a testament to the defensive effort by Atlético Madrid, but also how Juventus also struggled to truly break down their opponent.
- Another quiet night for Fernando Llorente. Sure, he was isolated up top for a large part of the game, but he did have a couple of chances in front of goal — most notably whiffing on a cross in the first half.
- Another player who had a really quiet night: Arturo Vidal. Just when we thought 'Hey, maybe he's starting to turn a corner and regain some kind of form!' he doesn't play well at all against Atléti. I'm trying to sit here and figure out what is truly going on with a player who has been so explosive and great the last three years, but I can't. He's not playing well, and hasn't been for months. It's getting close to being the middle of December and the midway point of the Serie A season now. This isn't some kind of thing that lasts a handful of games anymore.
- Patrice Evra ... wasn't that bad. I was worried, but hey, Atlético sitting back and doing not much of any sort of attacking negated any kind of potential meltdowns from Juve's new left back.
- No substitutions used. For either team. When was the last time we can say that?
- It sure is going to be nice to be in the Champions League knockout stage draw next week rather than the draw that's happening a few minutes after. A lot better than 12 months ago, I can tell you that.
- UEFA Champions League Game Time Thread: Juventus vs. Atlético Madrid
- UEFA Champions League: Juventus vs. Atlético Madrid — Full match coverage
- Juventus vs. Atlético Madrid: You choose Max Allegri's starting lineup
- UEFA Champions League Preview: Juventus vs. Atlético Madrid — Taking care of business
- Fiorentina 0-0 Juventus: Bianconeri secure a point after plain display