Well, at least that group stage is over.
It might be one of Juventus’ worst-ever showings in a Champions League group stage, but at least it’s over simply because when you lose five out of your six games in said group stage, there’s only so much of it that you can take.
Juventus lost their group stage finale 2-1 to Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday night. Considering all of the injury absences and all, it’s not a surprise to see Juve lose that fifth game out of six in the group stage. But, overall, Juventus were actually a pleasant surprise, with the extremely shorthanded Bianconeri actually hanging with a PSG side that was very much trying to play for the top spot in Group H until Benfica totally ran away with things against Maccabi Haifa.
That means it’s into the Europa League Juventus will go come the new year.
Also, for the first time in nearly 300 days, we got to see this on the field again:
Oh, how we’ve missed you, Mr. Fred Church. How much we have missed you and everything that you bring to this Juventus-themed table.
I guess this is the feeling about not having many expectations at all coming into the group stage finale. Was it cool to see a midfield consisting of Manuel Locatelli and Nicolo Fagioli with Fabio Miretti playing just in front of them? Well, yeah, of course it was for somebody who wants to see the young midfielders get a chance.
But Juventus lost.
The goal is to never lose no matter if a loss means you can still go to the Europa League.
Did Juventus play well overall? Yeah, I think that’s fair to say.
Yet PSG, thanks to a couple of absolutely fantastic goals, was the team that actually got the win. Maybe Juve was better on the whole, but PSG got the win. (Even though Benfica winning by a bigger margin means they get to finish in first in Group H and PSG is second.)
Overall, the team performance was nothing to scoff at. Against a team with Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi, a Juventus team with all of those absences held their own and actually had a chance to win this game.
But, in the end, Juventus finished with three points in the Champions League group stage. This is their doing and their doing alone. It never should have gotten to this point, and now Juve will have to deal with the effects of going to the Europa League and facing a dogfight to get back into the Champions League next season.
The Europa League is not the reward. It’s proof of their failure in the Champions League this season. Nobody who spends as much money as Juventus does actually wants to be in a situation where they drop down into the Europa League after UCL failures. But, because of those failures, this is now where Juve find themselves — and who knows if it’s going to be a one-off deal this season or not.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Pre-game thought No. 1: FRED CHURCH!
- Pre-game thought No. 2: Who had the final Champions League group stage game against PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN as the first time first time we get Nicolo Fagioli and Fabio Miretti in the same starting lineup?
- Pre-game thought No. 3: oh my god that bench
- Honestly, this is probably how I’d feel trying to defend against Mbappe, too:
- I don’t know what was more impressive — the move that Mbappe put on Gatti right before the ball got to his feet to initiate the whole move or just how easy the young Frenchman made everything look. His skill level, as he showed in the group stage opener and this group stage finale, is just off the charts and then some.
- Juventus outshot PSG by a 10-3 margin in the first half. Seriously.
- That was a performance from Manuel Locatelli that shows he can be a part of this team’s midfield going forward into the future. Now to just have that happen more often the next few weeks going into the World Cup break.
- Nicolo Fagioli, in just his eighth senior team appearance for Juventus, was one of the best players on the field against Paris Saint-Germain. He did a little bit of everything, and for me the most impressive thing was how much he was just calling for the ball and wanting to make good things happen. He’s got the mindset and has the skill, too.
- Fabio Miretti had a decent game. Not great, but decent. He’s not necessarily suited for — or at least is not accustomed to — the No. 10 role that he has played in against Lecce and now PSG. But some of those combinations between Miretti, Fagioli and Locatelli were fun to see.
- Filip Kostic completed one cross against PSG. Not great.
- Then I refresh the page and see Kostic led Juve with three key passes, so what do i know.
- Seeing Federico Chiesa out there, running at opposing defenders, making his silly facial expressions and, at times, directing teammates on what to do in the final third of the field, was just so damn refreshing. He is the one we’ve been waiting to see. His return, unlike Paul Pogba’s with all the delays and setbacks, actually seemed possible before the World Cup break. And we got that on Wednesday night. It felt good, man.
- Outside of Chiesa and Matias Soulé, Juve’s subs were players you might not had heard of coming into Wednesday night’s game.
- The other Federico on the field, Federico Gatti, is still very much a raw player. And to rip him for not being able to stick with arguably one of the two best players in the world might be a little unfair. Gatti did better against Mbappe as the game went on, but overall there’s still a whole lot of things to improve for a defender who was marking Serie B strikers this time last year.
- Juan Cuadrado got absolutely COOKED on what proved to be PSG’s game-winning goal. Talk about a guy who used to be one of the fastest players on the field getting beat by a guy who actually is one of the fastest players on the field, there you go. (And that guy, Nuno Mendes, had literally just been subbed on 30 seconds earlier. Guess his legs were feeling pretty good.)
- For the last few years we joked about Juventus being in the Europa League. Now, after this complete failure of a Champions League group stage campaign, that day has arrived. I don’t really know how to feel about it, honestly. It’s European football, sure, but not the European football that those of us who root for Juventus want the team to be in. Maybe this is the thing that inspires the squad to do something good come the new year, but I’m not sure what to think about this team after what we just watched in the group stage.