One last game. Three final points up for grabs. One final chance to get into the top four and qualify for the Champions League next season.
But, as we know, it’s not as simple as “win and you’re in, lose and you’re out.”
Juventus could very well beat Bologna on Sunday night and not get into the Champions League. That’s because Juve enter the final weekend of the 2020-21 season on the outside looking in of the top four in Serie A. They don’t control their own destiny, and the possibility of finishing in a Europa League spot after seeing their nine-year run of dominance across Serie A officially come to an end a few weeks earlier is very much in the cards. They need help, but most importantly they need to take care of their own business to even have a chance — and that is something that has given them so many issues throughout the other 37 rounds of league play this season.
So, to qualify for next season’s Champions League, this needs to happen:
- Juventus has to beat Bologna, and ...
- Napoli needs to drop points against Hellas Verona OR Milan has to drop points against Atalanta.
All three of these games will be going on at the same time, by the way. So as much as we will be watching the Juventus game, there will obviously be multi-screen situations going on around the world because that’s just what this kind of deal calls for. Feel free to get your Atalanta gear out of the closet after hiding it during the Coppa Italia final. If you’ve got any Hellas Verona mojo laying around anywhere, try to sprinkle it with pixie dust to try and get some good vibes going.
But for Juventus, if there is no win at the Dall’Ara, then there’s no chance at the Champions League.
(One might say there’s already no chance at the Champions based on the current situation, but they’re still mathematically alive to finish in the top four, so we will keep hope alive.)
Out of those three games, does Juventus have the easiest opposition? Probably. Hellas Verona is always a tricky matchup (as Juve found out a few months ago) and Atalanta are obviously still Atalanta and will want the chance to finish in second place in the league table. Bologna, meanwhile, last won a game April 18 and haven’t won back-to-back games since the middle of March. They are very much the kind of team form-wise that you would expect Juventus to beat.
And yet, that’s the kind of team that has given Juventus issues this season.
With what’s at stake, though, Juventus can’t afford that. They need three points. They need one of the two teams in front of them not to get three points. And that’s the reality of the situation. Nothing more, nothing less.
There’s only one way for Juventus to qualify for the Champions League next season, and it’s for a win and some help. I wish it wasn’t like this in the 38th and final round of the 2020-21 Serie A season, but this is the result of what has happened over the course of the previous 37.
This is the decisive day. There is no room for error now. And even if Juventus win, nothing is guaranteed. That’s just what happens when you put yourself in this kind of situation and the fate of which European competition you will qualify for is no longer in your hands.
Maybe Juventus get help. Maybe Juve don’t. Either way, it’s all to be decided Sunday — and that’s something that is both terrifying as well as somewhat exciting knowing how hectic those final two hours of the 2020-21 season are going to be.
- Rodrigo Bentancur is suspended after his undeserved red card against Inter last weekend.
- Aaron Ramsey has not been called up for the season finale due to a muscle injury.
- NICO FAGIOLI BACK!
- OK, he probably won’t play, but he’s been called up again for the first time in what seems like a few weeks at least.
- Andrea Pirlo admitted that Leonardo Bonucci still wasn’t 100 percent when he was a second-half sub in Wednesday’s Coppa Italia final. He didn’t mention just how Bonucci is feeling entering the final game of the season, though.
- When asked about his starting lineup choices for the season finale, Pirlo said the following: “Tomorrow is a different game, so I could opt for different solutions (than in the Coppa Italia final). I have no regrets, even if I might’ve made some mistakes along the way.”
- That (understandably) seems like all we’re going to get when it comes to hints about what starting lineup Pirlo is going to use against Bologna, but you can probably guess that it’s going to look a lot like what was used midweek against Atalanta.
JUVENTUS PLAYER(S) TO WATCH
Considering the situation, this is not a time to focus on one single player.
Juventus need to win. They need to win and only win. And therefore, it’s not about one player. This is about all 11 players out there against Bologna on Sunday night.
Not all of the players above will be starting against Bologna on Sunday night. Most of them will, but some of them won’t for obvious reasons. And that’s OK, even though I would totally be fine with Gigi Buffon getting the start in his last ever game with Juventus. (Shocker, I know.) It’s not like the lineup we saw against Atalanta in the Coppa Italia final was expected to be the same one Andrea Pirlo rolls out a few days later in the season finale.
Would it be easy to say that Juventus needs Cristiano Ronaldo to score a goal or two or for Federico Chiesa to continue to be awesome like he was in the Coppa Italia final? Well, of course. But as we’ve seen this season, things aren’t that simple. And that’s especially true against a mid-table side like Bologna that has cleared the much-desired 40-point threshold and literally has nothing to play for other than maybe finishing above 12th place where they currently find themselves.
As cliché as it may sound, Juventus need all 11 on the field to get the job done. They have to win to even have a shot at finishing in the top four, therefore simply playing at the level that we’ve seen so many times this season against mid- or lower-table teams just isn’t going to cut it.
To put it in even simpler terms: We need to see the Juventus from the second half against Atalanta rather than the one from the first half.
If Juventus do that, then there’s (probably) going to be good things happening. Hopefully. There better be, right? And if not, well then it’s going to be a longer summer than we probably already think it will be. (No, I’m not ready to learn the Europa League anthem yet, thank you very much.)
When: Sunday, May 23, 2021
Where: Renato Dall’Ara Stadium, Bologna, Italy
Official kickoff time: 8:45 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 7:45 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 2:45 p.m. Eastern Time; 11:45 a.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: TLN (Canada); Premier Sports 2 (United Kingdom)
Online/mobile: ESPN+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); Premier Player HD (United Kingdom); DAZN, Sky Go Italia (Italy)
Other live viewing options can be found here, and as always, you can also follow along with us live and all the stupid things we say on Twitter. If you haven’t already, join the community on Black & White & Read All Over, and join in the discussion below.