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A troubled fantasy? Looking at Juventus and the Champions League

Denis Doyle

The 2013-14 season ended with Juventus breaking records that you don't expect to be beaten again in the foreseeable future. A tally of 102 points significantly higher than what any Serie A team ever reached before, and a whole season gone without a single point dropped at home in the league. Astonishing numbers that made 2013-14 a season that will be remembered for a long time to come.

With all this taken into account, the season still ended by stirring controversy between Juventini on whether it was successful or not. A big segment of Juventini found the failure on the European stage hard to swallow, local success no matter how big was a compensation deemed not enough.

Putting things into context, 2013-14 was Antonio Conte's third season at the helm. In his first, he earned Juve back its position on the top of Italian football after years of post-calciopoly struggles. An achievement that made him receive plaudits from Juventini all around the globe, in their eyes the x-captain who came back to save their club from its misery was the ultimate superhero. In the second season, Conte successfully confirmed Juve's position on the top of Italian football winning the league with relative ease. This 2012-13 season saw Juventus make its comeback to the Champions League with a participation that promised great things to come. Juve bossed a group that included title holders Chelsea and a quality Shakhtar side with a series of very convincing performances. Qualifying top of the group, Juve "manhandled" Celtic in the last 16 stage with an annihilation of 5-0 on aggregate. Their journey eventually ended in the quarters against a Bayern Munich side that went on to win it all in a very impressive fashion. A positive season for Juventus by all means.

The wild fantasy of Juventini expected the fairy-tale to continue from here; Conte, who got us back from our lowest, will take us all the way to the highest. Juventus got into 2013-14 as massive favourites in Serie A, no team was genuinely expected to compete with them. Napoli who tried to play the anti-Juve role fell short quite early in the season, while Roma under the new Rudi Garcia regime performed superbly throughout but never managed to truly threaten what was from the beginning Juve's scudetto. This was the season Juve were expected to step it up in Europe though, unfortunately the reality failed to suit the narrative.

Juve couldn't make it through to the knock out stages, finishing third in a group that included Galatasaray and Copenhagen, teams that belong to levels below Juve's aspirations. A lot was blamed on luck after the game in Istanbul which was played in ridiculous weather conditions, in truth Juve had themselves to blame more than anything else. Managing to gain only two points from playing Copenhagen away and Galatasaray at home was a failure enough to make any excuse invalid. What made it all more frustrating is the two games against Real Madrid, the team which went on to win the Champions League. Juve didn't look inferior to Real Madrid during any moment of the 180 minutes despite playing for 45 minutes with a man down. Juventus got "relegated" as a result to the Europa League, reaching the semi-finals where they got knocked out by Benfica after another disappointing draw at home. This is what you call underachieving.

Heading into the summer, the uncertainty was there within the club just like it was between the fans. With Juve's best players focused on the World Cup with their respective national teams, media had names like Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba linked with moves away from Turin. What no one expected came only two days into Juve's preseason preparations, Antonio Conte handed in his resignation adding to the environment's uncertainty. The news fell as an absolute shocker on everyone that has to do with Juventus. Lots of rumours started coming up with everyone speculating trying to guess the reasons behind Conte's decision. Massimiliano Allegri was hired as a replacement, and the summer was concluded with Juve keeping all their star players and with a number of acquisitions made to increase the quality of the squad overall.

Unsurprisingly, the series of events at the club weren't received with great content by the Juventini masses. Now that the situation settled and the season kicked off with two impressive performances which showed we've maintained the level we were on last season, positivity is starting to spread. Allegri is proving to be smart enough not to ruin what Conte built, while his more direct approach and tactical flexibility might prove to be the way for us to conquer the next level. Juventus still stand today as favourites for the upcoming Serie A season despite Roma's efforts to close the gap. Especially that the squad is more equipped to fight on several fronts with the clearly increased quality of depth. Last season a number of factors contributed to see us underachieve in Europe, there is no reason to believe this will be the case this time as well.

If Conte was the one to hold us from the bottom to where we are, Allegri has now the chance to take us that one more step we've always aspired for. It's said that a man's worth can't be greater than his ambition. Football clubs are no different, thus Juve's ambitions should never see limits. With another Champions League season kicking off for Juve on Tuesday night against Malmö, the Juve fairy-tale can still continue, a bit of added drama will only make the end happier.