Five games. Three different competitions. Two games at home. One huge potential date with an untraveled path that could be secured at Allianz Stadium.
The month of December has a little bit of everything for Joe Montemurro and the Juventus Women squad. And I’m not just talking about the weather getting colder and colder in Turin and Montemurro’s plentiful collection of scarves coming out of the box for all of us to see.
To the itinerary ...
- Saturday, Dec. 4: Juventus Women at Sassuolo (Serie A)
- Wednesday, Dec. 8: Juventus Women at Chelsea (Women’s Champions League)
- Sunday, Dec. 12: AC Milan at Juventus Women (Serie A)
- Thursday, Dec. 16: Servette at Juventus Women (Women’s Champions League)
- Sunday, Dec. 19: Juventus Women at Bari (Coppa Italia)
No offense to Bari and the final fixture before the holiday break, but the first four fixtures are very much the headliners here. The Coppa Italia is very much the competition bringing up the rear in these rankings and it is the third order of importance.
Sometimes, these are just the way things are.
But seeing as the first of those four straight big fixtures comes this weekend and it is a meeting of first place and second place in Serie A, you can’t help but get the feeling that this is a season-defining kind of month for Montemurro and his crew.
No, seriously. Juventus vs. Sassuolo is very much a top-of-the-table clash between two teams that know each other very well and have done a decent amount of business with one another over the last few years. Just take a look at the table ...
Yeah, there we go. That’s what you call things setting up nicely.
A lot like the situation was a couple of years ago during the first half of the 2019-20 pandemic-shortened season, Juve will be playing their closest Scudetto rivals in relatively quick order. And because of that, they have the chance to kill off any chance of Milan winning the title and put a nice cushion between themselves and Sassuolo this weekend.
The fact that Juve can do this before Christmas arrives is impressive no matter how clear-cut of a favorite they were for the Scudetto entering the 2021-22 season, one where they’re looking to win their fifth straight title since coming into existence.
But as much as getting a healthy lead in Serie A is nice to think about, potentially advancing to the Women’s Champions League’s knockout round is even sweeter. It would mark the first time in Juventus Women’s short history that they’ve advanced to the knockout rounds just a few short months after making history to get to this stage of the game. (Remember, the UWCL put in the group stage as well as a unique qualification process that saw Juve play four games to even make it this far.)
This is what Juventus’ group looks like with two games to go ...
Montemurro, Juve’s first-year manager, was brought in to do just this type of thing and make Juve a more dangerous team in Europe. Or, as he said in a recent interview, close the gap between Juve and the top squads in Europe. So far, he has guided the team through the first four group stage about as well as anybody could have hoped. To be in position to advance to the knockout and be one of the final eight teams standing knowing full well that two of the best teams in the world are in your same group is truly remarkable. But that doesn’t mean that advancement is guaranteed — especially knowing that there’s another game against Chelsea still to come.
Now, the route to get there isn’t as simple as it may seem because of the simple fact that Juve faces Chelsea in London next week and Wolfsburg plays Servette on the same day. The odds say that Juventus will enter the final day of the group stage when they face Servette at Allianz Stadium back down in third place and in need of some help from Chelsea to get a result against Wolfsburg.
That’s not easy by any means nor the preferred way to get into the knockout rounds, but it’s the most likely one seeing as Chelsea have been an absolute battering ram since the Blues’ 2-1 win over Juventus Women in Turin on Oct. 13. And with the chance to officially lock up the top spot in Group A, you gotta believe that Chelsea are going to come out like gangbusters in London.
But the benefit of getting four points out of six against Wolfsburg — including the 2-0 win in Germany on Nov. 18 — is that a loss against Chelsea doesn’t end the chances of making the knockout rounds. They will need help, but knowing how the schedule looks on the final matchday is certainly playing into Juve’s hand. You get a win over Servette and a little help in the Chelsea-Wolfsburg match and you’re through.
Sounds simple. Isn’t actually simple. But it’s certainly possible.
That’s what makes this month of December important both domestically and especially in Europe. It just so happens that four big games are stacked on top of another one by one, creating a two-week stretch that will have a whole lot of importance when it comes to how things are looking come the new year.