After a deflating 3-1 defeat in Rome last weekend, Juventus went into their Coppa Italia final with more pressure heaped on them for the contest. A loss against Lazio, in the same stadium where they faltered versus Roma, could have been disastrous. The momentum picked up from the Champions League semifinal triumph over Monaco petered out following the loss against Luciano Spalletti’s side, but Juventus have the wind back in their sails again after picking up the first trophy of the year.
The loss against Roma was concerning more so for the mental impact than the defeat itself. Having to wait to celebrate their sixth successive Serie A title was a disappointment but that moment will come eventually, perhaps even this weekend in the home tie with Crotone. It was the increased pressure and hypothetical thinking of a late season collapse that came with it which consumed the minds of the Bianconeri faithful. As unlikely as that scenario was, with the Coppa Italia final looming, it was hard to ignore.
Losing against Lazio would have meant two big defeats within a few days of each other, thus risking a dwindling of confidence and belief for the final weeks of the campaign. Their hopes of an historic treble would be dashed, while the fixture with Crotone would suddenly centre more on fears of another slip-up than the excitement of a title win. Fortunately, this team is built around strong characters with champion mentality. They’re too experienced to let such a nightmare situation turn into reality, and the performance against Lazio reinforced their winners mindset.
A ruthless performance against Simeone Inzaghi’s side saw Juve pick up the first of three trophies they need to complete their ambitious aim of a treble. Dani Alves’ peach of a goal from Alex Sandro’s brilliant cross gave Max Allegri’s side the lead before a Leonardo Bonucci tap-in ensured victory. Gonzalo Higuain may have missed a couple of sitters but overall it was an efficient outing, who relied on their defensive solidity to see them through yet again. Another big game, another clean sheet. Even swapping Gianluigi Buffon out for second choice keeper Neto had no bearing on the final result.
The Coppa Italia performance reassured those in doubt that this side are ready for the final few weeks ahead. There’s still a league title to be captured & a Champions League final with Real Madrid to be played. But instead of fearing the worst, Juve supporters are now anticipating their team’s success. The win over Lazio was a typical Juventus victory, strong in defense while showing composure up front. Their opponents never looked like causing a problem, bar a couple of half-chances. On the back of the defeat to Roma, picking up a trophy was exactly what they needed to shift momentum back in their favour.
Crotone on Sunday should see Allegri put out a stronger side than in Rome last week, as heading into the final week without the title wrapped up is far from ideal. Going full strength now means a chance to rest those in need of a break for the final matchday, with the trip to Cardiff coming around in just a fortnight. The confidence from Wednesday night’s win, and the relief in keeping their treble dream alive, will make this weekend’s affair easier to deal with. After a blip in their otherwise stellar campaign, Juve are back on track and ready to push on to complete a famous season.