With one game to go in the Women’s Champions League group stage, Juventus Women’s chances of making the knockout rounds look quite good. A big reason for that is what Juve did Wednesday night, securing an incredibly important point with a scoreless draw in London against Chelsea, one of last season’s finalists.
Because of that draw and what happened in the other half of the group, Juventus and Wolfsburg both sit on eight points, but Juve’s head-to-head goal differential is what puts the Bianconere in the second place to advance to the quarterfinals.
There is no complicated situation in which Juve needs to see take place to ensure they’re in the quarterfinals. They don’t need help from the other group stage finale taking place. Nope, none of it .With the one point they got Wednesday night, Juve ensured that they go into the final group stage game of the year needing a win over the bottom dwellers with a negative-19 goal differential known as Servette — who Juventus Women has already beaten to open group stage play — to clinch a spot in the knockout round.
In theory, what happens between Chelsea and Wolfsburg next Thursday night doesn’t matter.
But it’s not a theory or just a thought out of thin air. Now, the only thing that needs to happen is for Juve to beat Servette at the Juventus Stadium and this squad and their first-year manager will make another piece of history on the European stage.
But even though there weren’t any goals at Kingsmeadow on Wednesday night, there were certainly some things to take out of the Juve women getting one step closer to making the Women’s Champions League quarterfinals for the first time ever.
1) Joe Montemurro continues to get it right in Europe
You want to see a manager who both has a complete understanding of his team as well as making all of the right decisions no matter the situation?
It’s this guy ...
So much of the hype (and reasoning from the Italian media) around Montemurro hire was that he would be the guy to make things improve in Europe. As much as four years of absolute dominance in Serie A under Rita Guarino was nice, the next step in the process was going to be to make some progress on the European stage.
Montemurro has said such recently, and he came into the job well aware of the fact that he is being looked upon to lead Juventus Women into uncharted territory in the Women’s Champions League. Or, at the very least, get the sense of belief going that Juve can make bigger and better things happen in Europe. From Montemurro’s recent interview on the Juve YouTube channel entitled ‘A Cup of Joe’:
The idea was obviously to bridge the gap in Europe and bring that closer, and whether we take two games as an indication against two of the top two or top four in the world, we could honestly say that we’re on this learning curve. But there’s nothing saying that there’s an opportunity for us to really do well in the coming years in Europe — and I think that’s where we need to be.
I just want everyone to believe, because there was a lot of doubt in terms of in Europe we’re playing Chelsea, we’re playing Wolfsburg, and the biggest thing for me was to make everybody believe that we can do it. And I think just through the courage and the behavior and the passion that we’ve shown, that’s starting to now grow.
You don’t get the kinds of result Juve’s recently gotten in the Women’s Champions League unless there’s a sense of belief that you can get the job done. Throw in the 2-1 loss to Chelsea in Turin when the game was tied until the final 20 minutes and you can see exactly what Montemurro is getting at. Juventus has played two of the top clubs in the world in its last four European fixtures, and the Bianconere have only lost one of them.
Juve’s performances against the big clubs in the group are they are where they are entering the final matchday of the group stage. And the way Montemurro set things up both tactically and just mentally have played a big role in all of that.
2) Pauline Peyraud-Magnin is earning her stripes in goal
And on Wednesday night, she did so while playing a good chunk of the game with some sort of leg injury after a second-half collision.
It didn’t matter if she was diving to her right, diving to her left, tipping a ball over the crossbar or parrying the ball around the outside of the post, it felt like Peyraud-Magnin was making just about every kind of save you can make. She made five saves, but it felt like twice that amount at times with how much Chelsea was firing the ball toward Juve’s goal.
This was a signature moment for PPM in the Juve goal. And you have to think it was a game in which she changed the opinion of a few people knowing that there’s been some bumpy moments to begin her Juve career.
Let’s face it, it’s not easy to replace somebody like Peyraud-Magnin did this summer, let alone come right in and expect to pick up where they left off — which, considering how important Laura Giuliani was the last four years, is saying something.
But against Chelsea, Peyraud-Magnin looked every bit of a goalkeeper that was on the top of her game.
3) Juventus defended like its life depended on it ... without its best defender
When Sara Gama was on the bench in Saturday’s win over Sassuolo, I figured there would a very large reason why — the upcoming Women’s Champions League fixture against Chelsea.
Then the starting lineups came out before kickoff Wednesday night and ... no Gama.
As it came to be known early on in the broadcast by DAZN, Gama came back from international duty with Italy a little injured, therefore she was simply on the bench for leadership purposes. Of all the players to warm up in the second half, you couldn’t include Gama in that group, with her role perfectly clear from the onset — lead as she could from the bench.
As much as Peyraud-Magnin was stellar between the sticks, Juve’s not pitching a shutout if not what the players in front of her did as well. They defended like absolute crazy, with a whopping nine shots off the feet of Chelsea players being blocked. Chelsea had plenty of shots, 25 in total, but a whole lot of them were trying to get through small windows because Juve defenders and midfielders were working their collective tails off to keep Chelsea off the scoreboard.
Montemurro deserves tons of credit for coming up with the right kind of game plan to keep Chelsea at bay, but the players — especially those who contributed to anything defensively Wednesday night — went out and executed it perfectly. There’s a reason why some of the players — especially those in defense — celebrated the way they did, and it’s because of the effort they just put forth to ensure Juve got a point in their trip to London.
Chelsea 0-0 Juventus. Juve with purest “they’ve come for a 0-0” performance I’ve seen in years. Block after block after block and then in stoppage time their captain booted the ball as far out of the ground as she could.— Michael Cox (@Zonal_Marking) December 8, 2021
The defense of this team has been fantastic for years now, but to do it against a Chelsea team that has some of the best attacking talent in the world is another thing. As Max Allegri found out when his Juventus team went to London, you can set up to defend all you want, but if you don’t execute that plan then there’s no use in doing as such. Montemurro’s squad most definitely set out and did what their manager told them to do, and they’re reaping the rewards of it now.