It’s the 64th minute. Juventus had just won the ball back and Juan Cuadrado decided to hoof the ball toward Gonzalo Higuain at the center circle. The ball, well of Cuadrado’s intended target, went right back to Barcelona and resulted in the Spanish giants to dominate the second-half possession numbers once again.
The resulting groan from the Allianz Stadium crowd said it all, too.
As the second half went on, there were more groans than cheers from the packed house in Turin. It was that kind of night for the six-time defending Serie A champions. And for those of us who watched, it was pretty much 90 minutes to forget, with an uneventful game playing out right in front of our eyes.
I mean, I’ll take a scoreless draw rather than another 3-0 butt kicking from Barcelona. Don’t get me wrong there. It was just a little more than slightly interesting why we saw Juve waiting until there was about 15 minutes to go to have even some kind of sense of urgency and push forward.
It didn’t result in much of anything — and that’s including the last-gasp save Marc-Andre ter Stegen made on Paulo Dybala right before the final whistle sounded.
But in a game where Lionel Messi started on the bench and only played about 35 total minutes, Juventus’ mentality was to not put its foot on the gas and not put Barcelona under a ton of pressure. It’s not like Allianz Stadium was on fire with excitement all game long, and a lot of that had to do with how Max Allegri approached the match.
He wanted a defensive battle, and he got one.
Again, we re-visit the scenarios that would have put Juventus in the Champions League knockout round...
- Juve beat Barcelona.
- Juve draw with Barcelona AND Sporting fail to defeat Olympiacos.
- Juve lose to Barcelona AND Sporting loses to Olympiacos.
Annnnnnnnnd none of those things happened.
That means Juventus will enter the sixth and final Champions League group stage game against Olympiacos in Greece needing to either not lose or not see Sporting beat Barcelona. Who knows how Barcelona will line up in that match knowing they’ve got the top spot in Group D already locked up, but I sure as hell don’t want to rely on somebody else to determine the future of Juve’s Champions League football this season.
That’s just me, though.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Juventus’ Man of the Match? Medhi Benatia. He was very good.
- Juventus’ Dud of the Match? Juan Cuadrado.
- I will now be awaiting everybody on social media or the comment section with comments about how I hate Cuadrado. But, the fact is, you can’t have one of your first touches of the game be the most impactful thing you do all match when you’re playing from the start. Just another day with Johnny Square.
- It sure would be nice if we started to see the Alex Sandro we’re all used to around here show himself once again. He’s there, he’s making runs up and down the left wing, but he’s just not the explosive force that he has been in previous seasons with Juventus. And it’s been that way for pretty much the entire season, too, which is not good.
- Gianluigi Buffon had to make one save. In a game against Barcelona. If you were just to see that without a glimpse at the final score and you probably would think to yourself that Juventus won the game. But nope.
- When Lionel Messi doesn’t start a game and Barcelona look pretty crappy because of it, you probably would think to yourself that Juventus won the game. But nope.
- When you shut Barcelona out you probably would think to yourself that Juventus won the game. But nope. (Okay, I’m done now.)
- Oh, hey. Daniele Rugani played in a Champions League game and, at least defensively, it wasn’t an unmitigated disaster. Who woulda thunk it?
- If there was ever a moment that displayed that Sami Khedira has lost a step it was in the second half where, with two touches, Messi went from running at Brother Sami to right on pass him. And it wasn’t even close.
- I would really love to sit through the decision-making process when it comes to figuring out Juve’s starting midfield and have Max tell me why Khedira made more sense than Claudio Marchisio and/or Blaise Matuidi. You combine Khedira’s current form with how much more mobile Marchisio and Matuidi would be alongside Miralem Pjanic and it has just left me scratching my head. I’d like some answers, Max.
- Another lineup-related note: Play Douglas Costa more.
- After hosting Crotone over the weekend, Juventus will face Napoli, Olympiacos and Inter Milan within an eight-day period. If you want a classic gut-check point of the season, there you have it, folks.