We sit here, with the calendar officially changed from November to December, wondering what the hell just happened to Juventus. Yes, it’s the first day of December, folks, and the Serie A champions haven’t been playing well for a good amount of time now, with positive results mostly masking the problems that were prevalent during Sunday’s 3-1 loss to Genoa at the Luigi Ferraris.
Juventus enters December having already qualified for the Champions League Round of 16 — which is good. Juventus sits atop the Serie A table with a four-point lead over both Roma and Milan and the rest of the pack isn’t all that far behind that — which is good, but could still be better. It may not seem like the worst situation to some, but when you play like Juventus has played over the last month or two, it’s not exactly the ideal kind of scenario going into a crucial stretch of games.
Juventus has five games before they all take a holiday break and open some presents. We’ll probably see said events documented on various social media accounts because that’s the kind of thing we’ve gotten used to seeing Claudio Marchisio and Leonardo Bonucci do these days. But, more importantly than what gifts the kids are getting in a little less than a month, are those five games Juventus have scheduled before Christmas.
- Saturday, Dec. 3: Atalanta at Juventus
- Wednesday, Dec. 7: Dinamo Zagreb at Juventus
- Sunday, Dec. 11: Juventus at Torino
- Saturday, Dec. 17: Roma at Juventus
- Friday, Dec. 23: Juventus vs. Milan (Italian Super Cup)
With the Super Cup being played in December for the second time in the last three years, that means that Juve’s regularly scheduled game against Crotone that was set for Dec. 22 will come after the holiday break. But even with one less game than we thought there would be during the final month of 2016, there’s a good chunk of importance being put on the next five games.
The fact still remains that there’s nine points in league play, the top spot in the Champions League group and one trophy out there for the taking. And judging by how this Juventus team is playing going into this stretch of December games, their form ensures that nothing is relatively guaranteed or makes us feel relatively calm about things compared to in years prior or even before this season began.
Oh yeah, they also have an injury list that is growing by the week.
All of this — Juventus’ current form, the result of Juventus’ last game, the current state of Juventus’ injury situation — puts even more of an emphasis on the next month while they trey and tread the water and make it to the holiday break unscathed. That doesn’t mean just keeping the closest competition from taking over first place in Serie A or seeing Sevilla do one final leapfrog job on the final day of the group stage. Nah, none of that.
It’s pretty simple to figure out Juventus’ two main goals before Christmas arrives:
- Beat Dinamo Zagreb and win the Champions League group.
- Stay atop the Serie A table.
Of course, how Juventus rebounds from the 3-1 dumpster fire against Genoa is the million dollar question heading into this weekend’s showdown with a red-hot Atalanta side that has used a 10-game unbeaten run — with nine of those results being wins, I might add — to rise up to fifth in the table. There is no hotter team in Serie A right now than Atalanta.
Maybe playing a team like Atalanta that is flying high and picking up win after win after win the last two months will be what makes things finally click for this Juventus side that has certainly not played up to its potential. Or maybe it’s the fact that Juve’s showing over the weekend will serve as the kick-start moment just as the defeat against Sassuolo did in late-October of last year.
That sure would be nice considering the current state of the team: Shrinking lead atop the Serie A table, poor run of form and injuries galore. Things aren’t exactly going well for Juventus these days. But they can turn this thing around just as long as Juventus actually start to resemble the quality team we all think they can be over the next three-plus weeks before we all take a break for the holidays.