As the minutes ticked off the clock and Sunday night’s Scudetto showdown went on, I kept thinking to myself that, at some point, Juventus would kick things into second or third gear. We had seen it before where Juve just wait around and have a low key first half and then came out a different kind of team after the halftime break.
That never happened.
Nope, never even close to it, really.
And then, because of yet another breakdown at the back on a set piece, Juventus got a reverse Simone Zaza-ing.
Serie A lead from four points to all of one. The final month of the season just got a lot more interesting. Or stressful. Or disappointing. I guess it kinda depends on where you’re coming from on this.
Kalidou Koulibaly’s 90th-minute header was a fitting end to what was an absolutely terrible Juventus performance in Napoli’s 1-0 win at Allianz Stadium. Napoli were the better side from the first minute on, and they’ve got the three points to show for it from a game that could have essentially ended the Scudetto race with room to spare has now seen the opposite happen.
The title race is very much back on.
And Juventus have just themselves to thank for it.
Juve looked completely flat — and that might be an understatement. The talk in the build-up surrounded Paulo Dybala starting status. And even though Dybala did get the start up front in Max Allegri’s 4-3-3 formation, it’s not like he did much of anything before being subbed off at halftime. (His replacement wasn’t any better, by the way.)
Just compare and contrast something for a second here...
- Napoli’s first scoring chance came within the first minute of the game.
- After 93 minutes of game time, Juve didn’t even record a shot on goal.
0 - Juventus fired no shots on target in a Serie A home match for the first time since they played at Stadium (2011/12). Stun. #JuveNapoli— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) April 22, 2018
If that doesn’t sum up what kind of night it was, I really don’t know what does.
Now Juve are in a situation where they must win their final four games of the season or else the run of six straight Scudetti will come to an end. It’s not like the schedule is a piece of cake, either — at the San Siro against Inter, home to Bologna, at the Olimpico against Roma and then home to Hellas Verona to close out the season. (The Coppa Italia final is in there, too, so don’t forget that.)
We knew it was a possibility coming into Sunday night’s game. Now it’s a reality.
It’s time to see what this Juventus team is made of once again. There’s going to be a whole lot of pressure on them because of this result, and the only ones they have to blame wore a Juventus logo on their chest against Napoli.
It’s up to Allegri, it’s up to the players, to show us how much they really want this now.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Medhi Benatia’s marking on set pieces lately ... I don’t know.
- Gigi Buffon, MOTM. He doesn’t save a couple of those Napoli chances and we’re talking about Juve getting their ass kicked in their own stadium.
- The most important league game of the season to date and Alex Sandro ends up being an unused sub. I don’t know if that’s a good sign...
- We’ve credited Allegri with making the right kind of changes in the second half in terms of both subs and tactics. Sunday was not one of those days.
- This is the kind of game where you’d hope that Juan Cuadrado was able to give Juve some kind of spark off the bench. Instead, he had one of those Cuadrado games where it seems like every time he touches the ball he frustrates the hell out of you.
- We should have known this game was doomed for disappointment when Giorgio Chiellini picked up one of those stupid muscle injuries we’ve seen him deal with over the last few years. I love that he tried to battle through it, but there was no way he could run.
- In hindsight, I don’t know if bringing Stephan Lichtsteiner on was the right decision.
- Then again, I can say the same about starting Benatia over Daniele Rugani the way the both of them have been playing over the last month or so.
- Blaise Matuidi was terrible in the attacking third. Terrible.
- Around the 44th minute, Chiellini had more touches than Gonzalo Higuain. Let me repeat, the 44th minute. Chiellini was subbed off in the 10th minute. That basically tells you all you need to know about how little service Higuain got — and it’s not like it changed much as the game went on.
- The way Juve’s midfield was all over the place on Sunday, they could have really used Claudio Marchisio on the field. Stupid flu is stupid. (Feel better, buddy.)
- If Juve end up falling into second place, two of their most recent games against relegation battlers — draws on the road to SPAL and Crotone — will be magnified even that much more.
- I don’t know about you, but the weather is nice, the sun is out and I’m grumpy. So ... cheers.