Through 19 games of the 2020-21 Serie A Femminile, Juventus Women has yet to see a loss charged to their record. It’s been 19 games played, 19 wins achieved — many of them with plenty of room to spare — and the fruits of that unbeaten run through league play is about to see its reward.
The three-time defending champions have the chance to make it four straight Scudetti this weekend, a point in time in the season where some folks might tell you was only a matter of time before it actually arrived.
And not only that, they will get to do it on their home field. While that might be under the same circumstances as the first two titles based on the fact that we are still very much in a pandemic and, as a result, fans won’t be allowed in the stands at Vinovo on Saturday afternnon. Regardless of no fans sitting mere feet from the Italian champions, Juventus Women can clinch the Serie A Femminile title against Napoli in the kind of fashion of what they have done quite a bit of over the course of the last four seasons — winning, baby.
They don’t necessarily need a win against Napoli to secure a fourth straight title. A draw against the Serie A Femminile newbies will suffice just fine. But you know with how the previous 19 league games have gone (and a handful of them before that), that they want the winning streak to continue with the added bonus of clinching the title coming with it.
Plus, “winning streak” just sounds so much better than “unbeaten streak.”
This might have felt like the inevitable to some. Maybe that notion was only confirmed further when the first half of the season ended and Juve were at the top of the table — again. But if you remember the early season coverage of Juventus Women on this here website, some of their first few games were far from routine and far from the kind of performance level those who follow them had gotten used to seeing more often than not. You can probably chalk it up to the fact that they hadn’t played in so long after the 2019-20 campaign was not restarted after the lockdown in Italy, meaning they went a huge chunk of the year without even playing a competitive game.
The rust they showed in September is clearly gone now, and their current eight-point lead over AC Milan — as well as both of their wins over their closest competition — is pretty reflective of that.
After the year that they’ve had both on the field and off it, getting the chance to physically celebrate winning the title after a game rather than a ceremony at Allianz Stadium months later will have to feel good. And knowing how consistently good they’ve been once they hit their groove this season, having this be the culmination will once again be a deserved achievement. (Although you gotta know they wanted to win the domestic double again.)
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1) The look of the attack
We discussed it a little on this week’s podcast, but last weekend’s win over Florentia San Gimignano was another chance for Andrea Staskova to make her case for more playing time both to close this season and for next season. She responded with a pair of goals, upping her total seven on the season, tied for second with Lina Hurtig.
Hurtig was forced to come out of Sunday’s 6-1 win with a muscle injury, but has been called up for the potential Scudetto clincher this Saturday. But that makes for an interesting squad selection choice for Rita Guarino:
- How many minutes does Hurtig have in her legs after the injury?
- How many minutes Barbara Bonansea have in her legs after returning from injury a couple of weeks ago?
- Does Staskova stay in the starting lineup and continue to play alongside Cristiana Girelli and a Wide Player To Be Named Later?
There isn’t exactly a wrong answer here, and it could very well be dependent on how either Bonansea, Hurtig or both feel going into this game. With only two games to go before the season comes to an official end, there’s no reason to risk either player if they aren’t feeling even close to 100 percent healthy.
The good part is, especially with Staskova’s performances the last couple of months, this area of the roster is now even deeper than it was at the start of the season. There’s just so many different combinations that Guarino can go with — and that’s not a bad thing by any means.
2) The ever-present importance of Valentina Cernoia
While Bonansea’s contract status continues to be a complete uncertainty, the latest player to add her name to Contract Extension SZN was Cernoia, who agreed to a new deal through 2022 earlier this week.
That is good news seeing as the 29-midfield is playing some of her best ball of the season right now.
And as good as Staskova was with a pair of goals last weekend, Cernoia was the Player of the Game with a goal and an assist during the first-half onslaught that helped Juve build a 3-0 lead and pretty much put things away by halftime. That comes after she scored a pair of goals the game before against Sassuolo.
With so many other talented players on the roster, sometimes it’s only natural to forget about just how good Cernoia can be and how important she is. That doesn’t matter if she’s playing in midfield or in a more advanced role — she’s one of the biggest creative sources for this team and can truly add a dynamic that not many of the other midfielders have.
With the way she’s playing right now, she’s definitely at the center of the team’s success. And with how many other weapons this Juventus Women team has, that’s a scary thought for opposing defenses.
3) Just what will Napoli bring to the table
Napoli is in 10th place, one spot above the relegation zone. Four points separate them and 11th-place San Marino, which hasn’t won a game since mid-December. Considering that, you’d have to think Napoli’s status for second straight season in Serie A Femminile is relatively solid with three games to go in the 2020-21 campaign.
But there’s also this: One of Juve’s closest wins of the season came against Napoli back on Dec. 5. The was the game before Juventus played Lyon in the first leg of the Women’s Champions League — a game in which they almost upset the then-reigning European champions who have since been eliminated from the competition — so maybe there was a little bit of looking ahead to who was coming to Turin in a matter of days.
Would this situation be a little different than the first time these two teams played?
You would like to think so.
Even with Napoli getting some much-needed wins in recent weeks, they’re still a team that didn’t record their first win of the 2020-21 season until the second-to-last weekend of January. Two of their four wins on the season have come over the the course of the last six weeks, which means Napoli’s obviously in better form than they were when they hosted Juve in Naples earlier this season.
Regardless, the Italian champions will be the heavy favorites in this game just like they were last weekend when they beat up on Florentia. That’s just what happens when you’re the best team in the league by a pretty noticeable margin.
When: Saturday, May 8, 2021
Where: Juventus Training Center, Turin, Italy
Official kickoff time: 12:30 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 11:30 a.m. in the United Kingdom; 6:30 a.m. Eastern Time; 3:30 a.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: Sky Sport Serie A (Italy)
Online/mobile: Juventus TV (Worldwide, subscription needed); TIM Vision (Italy)