In a lot of sports, no matter what country in which they are played, there are unwritten rules as to which teams abide by. Some of them make sense, others make you scratch your head. They’re real, they’re there and they’re pretty much the norm no matter if it’s football being played with a round ball or handegg.
Juventus’ unwritten rule is simple: Make things as difficult as they can be when taking part in a European competition. And not just that, it doesn’t matter who’s on the team or who’s managing them, it’s a constant issue that continues to rear its ugly head no matter who the opponent may be.
The heart of the matter is this: For the better part of the last four months we’ve heard about the priority that the Champions League is now taking in Juventus’ world. Is winning the Scudetto still important? Obviously, there’s no denying that because adding No. 35 and a record sixth straight Serie A title would continue what has been an incredible run. But there’s no way to avoid the fact that Juventus talked a big game this summer. They didn’t not shy away from speaking and bringing up their raised expectations — especially so when it comes to competing in Europe this season. And they worked the transfer market like a team with lofty goals, too.
- Juventus spent €90 million on Gonzalo Higuain.
- Juventus spent €32 million on Miralem Pjanic.
- Juventus spent €23 million on Marko Pjaca.
- Juventus signed Dani Alves, a player with massive Champions League experience, on a free transfer with a €3.5 million a season salary.
That’s €145 million-plus going out to other clubs, and that’s not even including player salaries outside of what they’re spending on Alves. We haven’t seen Juventus spend that kind of money in ages. And the reasoning behind it was because this club wanted to take the next step and become truly competitive in Europe following five years of domestic domination.
But what does Juventus have to show for it? With two group stage games to go, they’re sitting two points behind Sevilla and not exactly inspiring a lot of confidence when it comes to the preseason declarations of serious European intentions. Juve have drawn both of their home fixtures at Juventus Stadium in this season’s group stage. That’s happened in years past, too.
As much as dropping points at home is the frustrating part, the thing that is still stinging is the fact that with a 1-0 lead, at home, with the top spot in the group still very much up for grabs, Juventus’ mindset was to try and cruise their way to a win rather than pushing forward and adding to the lead they had grabbed not even 12 minutes into Wednesday night’s match. In a shorter way of saying it, they got the lead and then were extremely negative. No putting Lyon away. Nothing close to it, really.
You take the foot off the gas after going up 1-0, that's what you get.— BWRAO (@JuventusNation) November 2, 2016
That guy has a point, you know.
Would a win over Sevilla solve some of the ills of the previous group-stage frustrations? Of course, mainly because it means Juve are atop the group with one more game to go. (That game, against Dinamo Zagreb, is in Turin, by the way.)
But Juventus, in their own way, put the target on their back weeks before the draw against Lyon on Wednesday night. They raised the bar themselves. They created the level of expectation by who they signed and what they said.
“Being one of the frontrunners in Europe naturally sets you up for a greater fall and more criticism as well as forcing other teams to approach matches against you with a different mindset but we musn’t worry about living up to that status and instead relish the challenges it brings.”
— Juventus director general Beppe Marotta on Sept. 15, 2016
You’ve certainly that going for you right now, Beppe. And if things continue to be the way they are, with the quality of Juve’s performances fluctuating from game-to-game, week-to-week, then we’re going to be sitting here wondering what the hell is truly going on. Yes, even more than before.