While 2021 was a year that we hoped would spell the end of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, it unfortunately was not to be. Thankfully, though, there were few positive COVID cases in both the Juventus camp and the league as a whole throughout the year.
I’ve always thought it doesn’t make much sense to do annual reviews in European football since the season calendar runs from August through May/June. So New Year’s resolutions and annual reviews be damned!
As we enjoy our Christmas dinners, holiday celebrations, and New Year’s eve champagne, let’s look back at the final month of the year and talk about all the action in the Juventus camp.
Juventus kicked off the month with an easy game against relegation-threatened Genoa. A few days after Hakan Calhanoglu did it for Inter in their game against Roma, Juan Cuadrado also scored directly from a corner kick to open the scoring against Andriy Shevchenko’s Genoa side. By the looks of it, keeping Genoa in Serie A might be a task too great for the former Milan legend because they are a really, really bad team.
In fact, this was probably the only time in the almost two decades that I’ve watched football that I’ve seen a side have zero shots throughout an entire game. Despite the Bianconeri’s dominance, though — they registered a whopping 27 shots, of which 12 were on target — it took until the 82nd minute to kill off the game. Paulo Dybala received a pass from Federico Bernardeschi and buried his shot into the back of the net: 2-0.
Juventus then welcomed Malmo to the Juventus Stadium for the final group stage game of the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League. Allegri’s side had to better Chelsea’s result on the day to top the group and, while very few believed it would actually happen, somehow the stars aligned in Juve’s favor. Despite a terrible performance against Malmo, Moise Kean’s headed goal was enough to secure an unconvincing 1-0 victory.
Remarkably, Chelsea failed to beat Zenit in the other game after a stoppage-time goal by Magomed Ozdoev gave the Russians a point from the game after a thrilling 3-3 draw.
Although it’s an annoying cliché, Juventus seemingly suffered a Champions League hangover upon their return to the Serie A in their away game against Venezia. Álvaro Morata scored an early goal to put the visitors ahead in this romantically-arranged match, but Venezia, one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league, equalized early in the second half through Mattia Aramu’s impressive strike. Final score: 1-1.
Allegri’s side got a much-needed, week-long break to regroup and learn from their mistakes from the previous game. The team traveled to
Raccoon City to record a scene for the game Resident Evil Bologna to face Sinisa Mihajlović’s side. Given that I could barely see a thing all the game due to the incredibly dense fog, I don’t have too much to say about this encounter besides the fact that Morata and Cuadrado scored wonderful goals and the revitalized Bernardeschi (more on him later) gave another assist.
Bologna threatened to equalize before Cuadrado put the game beyond doubt and they arguably deserved more from the game as they put Juventus under serious pressure in the second half, but it wasn’t to be for Mihajlović’s team: 2-0 victory for Juventus.
The final game of 2021 saw the Bianconeri face Cagliari at home. Kean continued his impressive form of late with another goal after heading home Bernardeschi’s deflected cross. Just like against Bologna though, Juve flirted with danger in the second half and should probably have conceded a goal or two in the second half. Thankfully, man-of-the-match Bernardeschi scored the Bianconeri’s second goal in the 83rd minute to secure Juve’s second consecutive 2-0 victory and end 2021 on a high note.
Juventus Women started the month with a tidy 2-0 victory against a stubborn Sassuolo side. Two goals by Cristiana Girelli in the 58th and 68th minutes were enough to get us across the finish line.
Then came the crucial Champions League group stage game away against Chelsea. A good result in this game would put Joe Montemurro’s side in an incredibly strong position to qualify for the quarter finals. Juve secured an impressive goalless draw against Emma Hayes’ side, which meant that the odds were very much in our favor to make it out of the group on the final matchday.
The nail-biting draw with Chelsea was followed by a blockbuster Serie A game at home against AC Milan. The visitors took a shock lead in the second minute thanks Greta Adami’s goal. Andrea Staskova leveled the scoring five minutes later and Barbara Bonansea helped Juve go into the half-time break with a 2-1 lead thanks to her 36th-minute goal.
But this game was far from over. Miriam Longo equalized for Milan in the 69th minute to give both sets of fans a nail-biting final 20 minutes of the game. Lisa Boattin fired Montemurro’s team back into the lead for the second time this game after scoring a penalty in the 74th minute. Staskova and Lina Hurtig then made sure of the victory with two late goals: a breathless 5-2 victory for the Bianconere!
Then came the make-or-break game on the final matchday of the Champions League group phase: the home game against Swiss team Servette Chênois. While it ended up being a routine 4-0 victory thanks to goals from Hurtig, two penalties from Girelli, and a stoppage time goal by Agnese Bonfantini, Juventus were left holding their collective breath to see what happened in the other group stage game.
Chelsea, ravaged by positive COVID cases, lost by a whopping 4-0 scoreline against VfL Wolfsburg. This result led to the remarkable situation of Chelsea, Juventus, and Wolfsburg all ending the group stage on 11 points after six games.
Thankfully, the tie-breaker favored the Italians and the Germans, as Wolfsburg topped the group, Juve ended in second place, and Chelsea crashed out of the competition after a disappointing third-placed finish. A wonderful achievement for Joe Montemurro and his team as Juventus demonstrates how seriously it’s taking women’s football and how great its ambitions are! The Bianconere will face Olympique Lyonnais in the quarterfinals.
Juve partied like it was 1999 in its Coppa Italia showdown away at Pink Sport Bari. Victory in the final match of the Coppa Italia group stage game would place them top of Group E and ensure a place in the quarter finals. Two goals by Bonfantini, one by Arianna Caruso, and one by Swedish defender Amanda Nilden secured a 4-1 victory over Bari, with Renate Fedotova grabbing a consolation goal for the home side when the score was 3-0. However, what looks to be a season-ending knee injury to Cecilia Salvai put a damper on the match.
Juve will face Inter in the quarters.
Against all odds, and most certainly against my expectations, Federico Bernardeschi has recently experienced somewhat of a rebirth for Juventus. We made jokes about him, we made bets on when and for how little he would be sold for, but the Italian winger has silenced his critics and been in excellent form for the club recently. His uptick in form has felt like a new signing and given the Bianconeri a much-needed extra option on the wings, which is especially important given how much we’re overplaying Chiesa and how disappointing Kulusevski has been since joining the club.
Speaking of the Swedish winger, I forget who made the comment in a recent game time thread, but (s)he said it quite well: Bernardeschi is the player we expected Kulusevski to be, while the Swede is the player that we expected Bernardeschi to be.
To crown his rejuvenation and fantastic run of games, the Italian winger was crowned player of the month for December. Grande Fede!
Hot on the heels of Bernardeschi’s remarkable revival is Juventus left-back Luca Pellegrini. His revival has been less surprising given that he, quite frankly, never got a chance to show his abilities. And jeez, what a surprise, he’s actually a pretty good player! We all knew that Pellegrini was capable, but for some reason or the other he never got the consistent run of games that he needed to show how good he is. Thankfully, that time has finally come and he has vastly improved our options at the fullback position.
At the time of writing, the January transfer window is about to open, which means that there has been some buzz around potential transfers to the team, although Allegri insists that this squad is excellent and that the January transfer window won’t solve the team’s problems. Nevertheless, here’s a summary of the most notable transfer rumors we’ve heard so far:
- Juventus Women have signed Canadian midfielder Julia Grosso. Fresh off winning the Olympic gold medal in Tokyo a few months ago, the 21-year-old Grosso spent the last three years playing for the University of Texas. She’ll be eligible to play for Juventus from January 2022.
- You thought that the Simpsons was the longest-run show in history? Think again. In the latest installment of Will He Stay or Will He Go: The Paulo Dybala Contract Extension Diaries, Dybala supposedly wants to sign his contract extension around Christmas. Well, Christmas has come and gone and we’re still here, so tune in next time for the next thrilling episode of the show!
- We could see the much-maligned Aaron Ramsey and Arthur Melo leave Juventus in the January transfer window. In fact, Juve is working on terminating Ramsey’s contract.
- We have, somewhat strangely, been linked with wantaway Manchester United striker Anthony Martial. Many reports instantly shut the rumor down, though.
- Juventus negotiated with Genoa to bring the promising Italian midfielder Nicolo Rovella back early from his loan deal, but it seems that Rovella has opted to stay at Genoa until at least the end of this season.
- Mino Raiola is up to no good again (what a surprise!) after making comments about Matthijs de Ligt’s alleged desire to leave Juventus soon.
- Despite the player’s remarkable rejuvenation, Juventus is in no rush to renew Federico Bernardeschi’s contract.
- And last, but certainly not least, we may or may not be purchasing Gianluca Scamacca from Sassuolo.