You can almost approach the current stretch of games Juventus is in as a three-step road to success. It’s all the easy to figure out — on the road against Napoli, on the road against Olympiacos, back home against Inter Milan. Two huge domestic games against two top-of-the-table teams and then a Champions League fixture that will determine which European competition Juventus will be in come the new year.
So let’s just check on how things are going thus far...
- Juventus vs. Napoli — win.
- Juventus vs. Olympiacos — still loading.
- Juventus vs. Inter — still loading.
Tuesday night is where every bit of Juventus’ concentration should be. Not on what they did in Naples. Not what they’re going to face in Serie A this weekend. There’s only 90 more minutes guaranteed of Champions League football left this season. That is, of course, Juventus is able to make sure that they finish in second place in Group D behind Barcelona with a positive result against Olympiacos on Tuesday night.
Again, we look back at the scenarios Sam laid out for us after the Napoli win as to what needs to happen for Juventus to advance to the knockout phase of the Champions League:
Juventus defeats Olympiacos.
Juventus fail to defeat Olympiacos AND Sporting fail to defeat Barcelona.
Simple enough, right?
As much as Juventus don’t necessarily need to win in Greece on Tuesday night, there should be no other option in the players’ minds than to get all three points against Olympiacos. You don’t want to run the risk of even having to play with fire, let alone the off chance that Sporting does something against a Barcelona team that has absolutely nothing to play for on Tuesday night.
Regardless of the fact that Olympiacos has all of one more point in the Champions League this season than I personally do, we saw the first time around between these two teams that nothing is a formality. Juventus looked sluggish for nearly 70 minutes before Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic came to the rescue.
We’ve seen Juventus go on to struggle against Sporting, not score any goals once again against Barcelona and miss two opportunities to clinch their spot in the Champions League knockout phase because of it.
When it comes to games remaining, there’s no more slack in the rope remaining. It’s either get the job done on Tuesday night, or it’s get ready for an entire fanbase to be disappointed as you try to explain what happened and why the Europa League will matter.
In a string of three huge games in the span of eight days, we’ve reached the middle one of the three. The first one went pretty well, I must say. Now we get to see what the second one has in store for us all. (Hopefully good things. Like, you know, a win.)
Juventus has some room for error, but I sure would be okay with them not needing to rely on that little piece of information.
If Juventus screws this up majorly, then it could very well mean no Champions League football until next season. I’m pretty sure nobody wants to see that happen.
Well, nobody here anyway. I bet a few Inter or Napoli fans want to see Juve crash out in flames, but that’s just me thinking out loud here, folks.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1) Can Juventus qualify for the knockout round?
As much as we can talk tactics, talk about the injuries and the players that are already out and the ones who are doubtful for Tuesday night’s game, it’s a matter of one thing and one thing only.
It’s about Juventus getting a job done.
You want to think that if Juventus play anywhere close to how they did against Napoli then things will be going rather well as the game goes by. However, it doesn’t really matter how Juventus plays as long as it ends up
Yes, that is me saying I would be okay with a so-so Juventus showing if the end result was seeing them celebrate a second-place finish in Group D.
There are injuries. There are players in doubt. But there’s still Paulo Dybala. There’s still Gonzalo Higuain. There’s still enough talent on this Juventus team to get the job done even though they’re not going to be close to 100 percent full strength.
Do your thing, Juventus. I sure would like to be able to head into the rest of the work week in a good mood about your current standing in Europe, not be completely grumpy about having to write about the Europa League.
MY STARTING LINEUP
Juventus XI (4-3-2-1): Gianluigi Buffon; Mattia De Sciglio, Medhi Benatia, Giorgio Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Blaise Matuidi, Miralem Pjanic, Claudio Marchisio; Paulo Dybala, Douglas Costa; Gonzalo Higuain
Location: Karaiskakis Stadium, Athens, Greece
Kickoff time: 8:45 p.m. local time in Italy; 7:45 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 2:45 p.m. on the East Coast; 11:45 a.m. on the West Coast
TV: TSN4 (Canada); BT Sport Extra (United Kingdom); PremiumSport HD (Italy)
Online/Mobile: ESPN3 USA, WatchESPN, ESPN Deportes+ USA, Fox Soccer Plus, FOX Soccer Match Pass, (United States); TSN GO (Canada); Premium Play (Italy)
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