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Manu’s Grab Bag: Meltdown in Madrid

Something about Madrid clubs does not sit well with Juventus, as Juve gets outclassed in the second half and has one foot out the door of the Champions League.

Club Atletico de Madrid v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg
Not the greatest moment to point out how many Champions Leagues you’ve won, mate.
Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

“Sometimes a win is not a win, sometimes a win is the blueprint that’s showing you how they are going to lose when it matters.”

That’s a quote on an article on The Ringer about the Toronto Raptors, a team with a recent history of success in the regular season and crushing disappointment in the postseason.

If you take regular season as Serie A and Champions League as the postseason, I believe it applies perfectly to Juventus’ current situation. And if I can paraphrase it a little, I think it’s perfect for how I felt after Juventus’ crushing 2-0 loss against Atletico de Madrid. Something like:

“Sometimes, an entire month of lackluster football and worrying performances despite having a comfortable domestic lead is the blueprint showing you how they are going to disappoint us in the Champions League again.”

Maybe it was a bit more paraphrasing than I thought, but you get the idea. The first leg of the Round of 16 of the Champions League was everything Juventus fans feared they would get after the months of January and February. It was all the worst aspects of their recent play coming together in one, awful second half.

Inconsistent would be a perfect word to describe it. Lackluster would be another.

But, hey, why don’t we go into detail into exactly why it was terrible, shall we?

Trending Down: Juventus’ Reputation as a Defensive Squad


In all seriousness, Leo Bonucci continued his spell of infuriating, unpredictable play, capping it off by getting bullied on Atletico’s first goal, alleging a non-existent foul and hoping to get bailed out by VAR. Giorgio Chiellini was better, but that’s not saying much necessarily. While he was solid, he also got bailed out by VAR in Alvaro Morata’s disallowed goal, a ticky-tacky call that could have gone either way.

Remember a few years back, when Juventus was damn near impenetrable from set plays? Those days seem far removed. Not only were Atletico’s two goals from set pieces, but not even particularly clever play designs. I know the stereotype is that Italian teams are solid at the back and what not, but we haven’t seen that in UCL play in a minute. With this Juventus team, no lead has ever felt safe.

Panic Button Update: Juventus’ Entire Season

Always fun to talk about how the season is in danger on February! Good times all around.

It is not a hot take, nor an overreaction to say that the season could be all but done within three weeks. With a game against Napoli before the return leg and a plus-13 lead in the table, a good result against our southern rivals could all but wrap up the league. With Juve already eliminated from the Coppa Italia, if Juventus can’t overcome Atletico at home we could be looking at Juve playing in only one competition from March on — something that we haven’t seen in a long time.

And, sure, it sounds annoying to a lot of other fans to bitch and moan about the fact that we would only be winning one trophy. Woe is me. But the facts are the facts, Juventus sole and only goal this season was to succeed in Europe, Max Allegri – And we’ll get to him in a minute- can say whatever he wants but it’s the truth.

If Juve gets bounced in the round of 16, the season will be a failure, no if’s or but’s about it.

Panic Button:

Trending Down: Juventus’ Attack

The gazillion Euro trident looked like a cheap plastic fork against Atletico’s defense. Mario Mandzukic was without service and isolated, Paulo Dybala had two men on him the entire game and was nonexistent and while Cristiano Ronaldo was the best of the three, but he was also largely shut down in a superb defensive display by the Colchoneros.

(He did have a reasonably dangerous free kick attempt though! Progress!)

Again, not to make it seem like everything hinged on this one game, but everything does hinge on this competition. Dybala is on his last year of being a young guy with potential and, in all honesty, should probably be The Guy by now. Ronaldo was brought in to win this specific type of games and Mandzukic is on the tail end of his prime, with a good shot at not even being on the squad next year.

Not to get into the financials specifics, but who knows if next year we have to sell guys to balance the books. The Ronaldo move, the Joao Cancelo purchase, bringing in Emre Can at an outrageous wage for what he has brought to the team. Those were all win now moves.

Their window might be closing.

The #AllegriOut meter

Tough, tough game for us, Allegri apologists.

Just as this was an encapsulation of everything we have been worried about Juve this year, it was also an encapsulation of every infuriating thing about Allegri.

While his setup to start is defensible, they did play pretty even in the first half, and you could still argue it was a rather conservative move to start Mattia De Sciglio instead of Joao Cancelo. Something I actually thought as well, especially going against such a tough defensive team like Atletico and with Rodrigo Bentancur instead of Federico Bernardeschi, making it a very conservative side.

Still, like I said, defensible.

What is absolutely inexcusable is waiting so long for substitutions, especially once Atletico had completely changed the pace and rhythm of the game with their subs. It’s inexcusable to have so much attacking firepower on the bench and wait so long to put them on, giving Cancelo, an undisputed MVP candidate for the season, less than 10 minutes to make a difference is outrageous. Taking so long to take either Mandzukic or Dybala — who were either ineffective or without service — out is a borderline fireable offense.

The clinic we saw from Diego Simeone in the second half should give Juventus some pause as to whether Allegri is still the man for the job or if his cycle, as remarkable as it was, has run its course.

This games is the fabled 5 out of 5 in the scale, the “Even his supporters are kind of seeing your point” of the #AllegriOut scale.

Song of the week for … Juventus Fc

Lose Yourself, by Eminem!

The quintessential white, middle class, adolescent workout song works perfectly for our song of the week today.

Yes, after everything that has happened this season. It all comes down to this one shot, one moment, and one game against a tough as nails team at home.

Now we will see if this Juventus team is truly special or just another pretender.

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