More than a few times after I fired up the old Paramount+ stream they rolled out the teaser for Sylvester Stallone’s new series on the streaming platform, “Tulsa King.”
Honestly, that seems like it would have been a much better watch than whatever the heck Juventus trotted out there Tuesday night.
Any glimmer of hope that Juve had of making the final day of the group stage mean anything when it came to the Champions League knockout rounds are now done and dusted. Juventus didn’t just lose to Benfica, they got absolutely blown out of the water, with the Portuguese side running rampant on Max Allegri’s team that outside of a few minutes in the first half barely looked like they got off the bus.
“It was a deserved 4-3 defeat if there ever was one,” he told himself before Juve tried some second-half comeback things. And the thing about it is that it could have been a lot, lot worse. Like A LOT.
But to see Juventus, no matter how much realistic hope there was that they would keep their Champions League knockout round chances alive, come out and play the way they did before the Samuel Iling-Junior-fueled second-half comeback bid just shows you how bad things were for much of this trip to Portugal. The loss was very much down to both how they were set up on Tuesday night and how they just came out totally flat, allowing Benfica to build an impressive 3-1 lead going into halftime — one that they needed every bit of knowing how the second half played out.
On the whole, though, this was bad, a 20-minute run of youthful ignorance unwilling.
They might be putting it kindly, too.
The fact that they were down two goals at the half in a game that they came in knowing they had to win just tells you everything about this current Juventus team. So does the fact that things only got better when Allegri looked like he waved the white flag and brought on three youngsters in Illing-Junior, Matias Soulé and Fabio Miretti and then it’s like the reins are let go of and Juventus could actually play a little bit, too. (And Benfica were still very much pushing for goals at that point, so it’s not like they just shifting things down into cruise control before those subs.)
We’re not here for moral victories in this kinds of games. Nah, we’re done with. There was one result that Juventus needed to keep hopes of making the Champions League knockout round alive and that didn’t happen. They knew the situation and then within one half got into the kind of situation that was virtually impossible to get out of over the course of the next 45 minutes.
That’s on the manager.
That’s on the players.
That’s on everybody involved.
To fall behind that quick and in that kind of fashion was just another example of the systematic problems that hamper this squad. Whether it’s the manager setting them up not to lose rather than come out and win a must-win matchup or the players making basic mistakes or not playing all that well, there’s blame all over.
We’ve said it a lot over this season (and last season) (and the season before that), but Juventus has been its own worst enemy so many times that it’s not a surprise, at this point, that they are where they are. Juventus let Benfica take the game to them. And, being the good team that they are, Benfica made Juve pay. That’s what you’re supposed to do. That’s how Juventus should have come out.
Instead, Juve only looked like it had any semblance of major life when a 19-year-old Englishman making his second senior team appearance was running wild on the left wing.
In the end, this is what Juventus deserves with how they’ve played in the Champions League group stage. This the only thing they deserve because it’s certainly not to actually be fighting for a spot in the last 16.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- The match announcers said this after Arek Milik scored off an Illing-Junior cross to make it 4-2: “A rare moment of quality from them.” If that doesn’t sum up Juventus’ 2022-23 season to date, I don’t know what else would.
- SAMUEL ILLING-JUNIOR IS THE BEST PLAYER IN THE WORLD PROVE TO ME THAT I AM WRONG
- At least last time Juve were bounced from the Champions League at the group stage we could yell about the field conditions being terrible and all that. This time? It’s on you, Max.
- The manager the last time Juve got eliminated from the Champions League at this stage of the game? A guy named Roberto Mancini.
- The guy who is currently managing Juventus shouldn’t be managing at Juventus anymore. This has gone on long enough.
- The thing is, we’ve said that more than a few times this season already. We know Andrea Agnelli doesn’t like to make managerial changes in the middle of a season — and especially so when said manager is making a ton of money — but this has to be the exception to the rule. For much of this game it was a completely fireable offense.
- Also: Juventus crashing out of the Champions League before the knockout round is most definitely a fireable offense — especially with how the team has played for much of the year.
- How Benfica ended with just four goals is still somewhat amazing to me.
- Juan Cuadrado, regressing back to the mean after a nice performance against Empoli.
- Another goal for Weston McKennie after people on the internet said he was worthless.
- Maybe not the kind of game to hand Federico Gatti his first Champions League appearance? I know it came under the circumstances of Alex Sandro being hurt and not fit enough to start, but Daniele Rugani had to be the better play here, right? I mean, Gatti hadn’t played in over a month and really hasn’t played at all this season, so why roll him out in this game? I don’t get it.
- Alex Sandro was fit enough to come on in the second half, for what it’s worth.
- Thinking that Danilo probably should have gotten a red for that tackle that got him a yellow. That was baaaaad and how his studs up going right into the dude’s leg. Bad, bad, bad.
- Moise Kean had seven touches.
- Matias Soulé had eight touches.
- Leonardo Bonucci ... yeah, that’s the kind of performance that reminds you again he’s 35 years old, past it and should not be a regular starter for this team anymore. The problem is, I’m not sure there’s any better option at this point knowing how little trust Allegri seems to have in rolling Gatti out more often.
- Filip Kostic had lots of crosses, lots of key passes, but a terrible pass accuracy. Whoulda think it, folks.
- Juventus can tweet out all of the “we’re still united” kind of photos they wan, but this game is just another reminder of how far from being an elite club again.