About 12 hours after Juventus’ (insert extremely negative adjective here) 2-0 loss to Atlético Madrid on Wednesday night, Max Allegri decided to send something out on Twitter to all his adoring fans.
(I respect it, my guy. Hopefully you didn’t check your mentions ... or BWRAO comments, though. That might have been a little messy.)
20 giorni. 20 giorni per ESSERE PRONTI a una sfida da VIVERE, e VINCERE, tutti assieme. Fino alla fine.— Massimiliano Allegri (@OfficialAllegri) February 21, 2019
Let me just go ahead and plug this into Google Translate real quick for our readers...
20 days. 20 days to be ready for a challenge to live, and win, all together. To the end.
Ah, there we go.
Checking his mentions, if Allegri did so, was probably a questionable move. Sending something out about the second leg and how the next three weeks might have also been a questionable call knowing just how much heat Allegri was getting after it all went down in the fashion it did.
But when you realize that Juventus are up 13 points in Serie A and is about to play a relegation battler for the second straight league fixture, Max’s eyes should be on what to do come March 12 when Atlético Madrid makes its way to Allianz Stadium. Sure, there are other Serie A games to be played between now and then, but that’s not what anybody is talking about. The discussion around Juventus the past 36 or 48 hours hasn’t been about Allegri’s squad being able to keep their lead in double digits the next couple of weeks. Hell, Serie A hasn’t even been mentioned since the 3-0 win over Frosinone just over a week ago.
This is about what happened three days ago in Madrid.
And it’s about what Allegri can do to clean up this mess.
We know Juventus have invested so much in a deep Champions League run this season. That was obvious the day Cristiano Ronaldo became a Juventus player. Juve were already the best team in Italy, with a club-record season from Napoli still not good enough to dethrone the seven-time defending Serie A champions.
Last week I said that the next 3 1⁄2 months, from Champions League Round of 16 to the first day of June will be Allegri’s most important stretch simply because there’s so much riding on it. That’s only emphasized now after the first 90 minutes against Atléti.
The Atlético Madrid defense, one that was struggling and leaking in goals just a few weeks ago, looked as strong as it has all season long in the first leg against Juventus. No matter what Juve threw at them — Ronaldo attacking from everywhere (and even putting a free kick on frame), crosses in from the wings, trying to create through Paulo Dybala — they were smothered like a fire underneath a massive bucket of water. (Or something like that.)
Allegri, much like after the first leg against Real Madrid last season, is now left to try and pull a rabbit out of his hat and keep this team, one that has placed so much emphasis on the Champions League, in the Europe’s premier club competition.
The problem in all of of it, on top of the failure of achieving the singular reason of signing somebody like Ronaldo, is this: That Real Madrid team is nowhere close to as good defensively as this Atlético Madrid team is. For every 4-0 loss to Borussia Dortmund in the group stage, Atleti has loads of performances with the exact opposite kind of results to lean on.
As much as Wednesday night’s result stings, Juventus aren’t totally out of it. It’s probably hard to believe now, but this team has been able to rally from worse aggregate scorelines before. (And yes, I’m technically counting the second leg against Real Madrid last season because screw your stupid penalty calls, Michael Oliver.)
The countdown this time last week was to see what Juventus could do against one of the toughest opponents that could have been drawn in the first knockout round.
The countdown this time, though, is to less than three weeks from now to see if Juve can actually do something like what happened last year against a Madrid-based team. The only difference is that this time they will have to finish the job in Turin rather than in Spain.
Twenty days ... 19 days ... 18 days ... and counting.