Toward the end of the first half, the cameras showed a young woman in the crowd wearing a Juventus jersey from the Antonio Conte (managerial) era. It was the “30 SUL CAMPO” edition, with those that short but defiant phrase written right beneath the “old” club badge. Seeing that jersey made me think about how long ago that season and that title, the one that started this whole run Juve’s currently on, truly was.
Before kickoff Saturday afternoon in Ferrara, the tally could be referred to as seven straight.
After the final whistle sounded, on a day where Juventus could have officially added another Scudetto to their name, we were forced to wait a little while longer.
If there was any more clear-cut sign that Juve’s concentration is on Tuesday night’s showdown with Ajax, I’d love to hear about it. Although we got to see Moise Kean dance after scoring a brilliant first-half goal, it was SPAL who celebrated the win, coming back with a pair of goals after the halftime break to claim a huge three points in their quest for Serie A survival and postpone the latest Scudetto celebration for Juventus at least 24 hours at the very least.
That’s SPAL’s first win against Juve since 1957— James Horncastle (@JamesHorncastle) April 13, 2019
The Scudetto count is still on 36 — for now.
And if Napoli don’t absolutely fall apart against a Chievo side that is on the brink of officially being relegated, then Max Allegri’s hope of wrapping up the Scudetto before the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinals against Ajax will have gone up in smoke.
But, at the same time, Allegri made it perfectly with where Juventus’ true concentration lies with who was on the field — and wasn’t even on the squad list — in Ferrara on Saturday.
It was almost an entirely different starting lineup that we saw against Ajax three days earlier. And, with a 20-point lead entering the afternoon, Allegri was able to do every bit of squad rotation we hoped he would. Joao Cancelo and Rodrigo Bentancur were the only two starters on Saturday who also were in the lineup against Ajax midweek. Allegri rotated heavily, and I don’t think anybody could blame him knowing that Tuesday night’s return leg in Turin has so much riding on it.
But once Juve got the lead courtesy of Kean’s Pippo Inzaghi-like finish in the box, it was basically see-the-game-out mode from the visitors. The only problem was that SPAL, who entered the contest far from a sure thing to stay up in Serie A, came out firing.
It was a completely deserved equalizer and then eventual game-winner for SPAL, a side that had only scored two goals in a match one previous time since the final week of January. As much as Juve tried to see the game out, SPAL made the seven-time defending Italian champions pay for what, let’s just call it, was a relatively uneventful second half in front of the SPAL goal.
I do have a confession: I ain’t even mad about it. There’s much, much important things to deal with a couple of days from now. (Although it is going to be somewhat amusing to look back at the final Serie A standings this season and see who actually recorded wins over Juventus.)
But dang, Juve can only get to 102 points now. It’s #AllegriOut time again, I guess.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Mattia Perin’s makeover ... still not used to it.
- He may frustrate the hell out of a lot of us, but it was good to see Johnny Cuadrado out there again. It’s been a long time coming and a long road back to full fitness.
- Good to see Emiliano Viviano staying very much on brand and wearing the No. 2 jersey once again with SPAL.
- I wonder what went through Andrea Barzagli’s mind as the game got underway and he looked to his left to see a defender in Paolo Gozzi who’s more than half his age and making his senior level debut. Kinda cool, but also probably kinda nerve-wrecking at the same time.
- Fifteen minutes into the second half, Juventus had an 17-year-old in defense (Gozzi), an 18-year-old in the midfield (Hans Nicolussi Caviglia) and an 18-year-old leading the line in attack (Kean). Can’t say Juve fielded the oldest lineup in Serie A this weekend, my friends.
- Paulo Dybala’s current situation makes me sad. And then seeing Dybala go out and really struggle to do much of anything right against SPAL — a team that has allowed as many goals as Roma this season — just makes me even more sad for Juve’s No. 10. This is obviously not the kind of season Dybala wanted to have, and it’s hard to really say what his role is at the club right now. He’s essentially become a second-string player as Federico Bernardeschi has taken claim to a starting spot in attack alongside Mario Mandzukic and Cristiano Ronaldo. And it’s not like Dybala is built to be the impact kind of sub like somebody in the mold of Douglas Costa can be.
- I don’t know about you guys, but there’s something about clinching the title at home in Turin that will make it mean a little more. It’s going to be a huge week for those who are able to get tickets to the two games within a five-day span at Allianz Stadium. Lucky dogs.
- I don’t know what else to say. Juventus fielded something between the ‘B’ and ‘C’ team, they lost and it really doesn’t impact anything other than officially being league champions. Juve can still clinch it this weekend if Napoli lose to Chievo, so there’s that. But hey, if it doesn’t happen on Sunday, it’s not like there’s going to be widespread panic across the country that Juve are going to suddenly see an eighth straight fall through their hands.
- “OH NO JUVE’S LEAD MIGHT ONLY BE 17 POINTS!” said nobody.
- And with that, I’m going back to bed.