It feels like it was just yesterday when we were
panicking talking about Juventus being in a potential relegation battle for the remainder of the season due to the controversial 15-point penalty in the plusvalenza case.
Thankfully, that panic has disappeared thanks to a combination of Juventus’ remarkably good form and the terrible form of the top six teams in Italy ... except for, of course, Napoli.
With only two months left of the 2022-23 season, Juventus has a surprisingly good chance of making what seemed like a disastrous season suddenly look not too bad after all. How quickly things change!
Moving up the table
Juventus traveled to the capital to face Roma, who have a real chance of qualifying for the Champions League for the first time since the 2018-19 season. As we mentioned on the podcast episode afterward, it was a match in which Max Allegri got Allegri’d ... by Jose Mourinho, the creator of the Style of Allegri. Roma did close to nothing all game and showed little desire to play (positive) football. They had such little desire to attack that their starting lineup didn’t even have a traditional striker.
Juventus tried and tried, but, except for a few chances here and there, didn’t threaten Roma goalkeeper Rui Patricio very much. The home side took advantage of their only real chance of the game when Gianluca Mancini scored a thunderbolt of a shot in the 53rd minute. It was the game’s only goal as Allegri’s side not only lost 1-0, but also saw Moise Kean sent off late in the game — and just seconds after coming on — after violently kicking Mancini in an off-the-ball moment of madness.
Then came the next episode of our Adventures in the Europa League: a home game against Freiburg in the first leg of the round of 16. The Bianconeri had a staggering 26 shots (compared to Freiburg’s one shot) but were extremely wasteful in front of goal. The in-form Ángel Di María scored an impressive header from yet another Filip Kostic cross and assist to give the home team a slim 1-0 victory, even though it should have been 2- or 3-0 at least.
The next game on the calendar, at home against Sampdoria in the league, ended up being the most bizarre game Juventus has played this season. Gleison Bremer scored his third goal of the season after heading in a Kostic corner early in the game. Adrien “Contract Year” Rabiot doubled the lead with another header, this time from a Fabio Miretti cross. But then things got a little interesting.
Sampdoria suddenly woke up while Juventus mysteriously disappeared into The Shadow Realm. The visitors, who happen to be the lowest goal scorers of the league, scored two goals in 72 seconds through Tommaso Augello and Filip Djuricic to silence the already-very-quiet Juventus Stadium. They even pushed for and went close to a third goal as Allegri’s men desperately waited for the half-time whistle to come in order to regroup.
Thankfully, things returned to normal after the break: Rabiot scored his second of the game through an impressive volley, though it sure did look like he controlled the ball with his hand in the buildup. Matías Soulé then made sure of the victory when he scored his first senior goal for the club in the 94th minute after Vlahovic’s header was tipped onto the crossbar by the goalkeeper but Soulé nodded in the rebound. A bizarre and unnecessarily nervous 4-2 victory, but you can’t say that Juventus games are boring!
Off to Germany then, for a potentially tricky Round of 16 second leg against Freiburg in the Europa League. The Bianconeri controlled the game in the first half and thought they had taken the lead through Vlahovic, but the Serb was marginally offside in the buildup. The game-changing moment came in the 44th minute when Freiburg defender Manuel Gulde got his second yellow card when he handled Federico Gatti’s shot in the box.
This time, Vlahovic did get his goal after scoring from the spot, though it was probably one of the worst penalties you’ll see in a long time. The second half was a bit of a non-event as Freiburg knew that there wasn’t much they could do with a two-goal aggregate deficit and a player sent off. The Other Federico (Chiesa) scored the 2-0 in the 95th to kill the game off and book a quarter final fixture against Sporting Lisbon!
The final game of March saw Juventus face off against Inter at the Giuseppe Meazza for a crucial league game. While we started the month by getting Allegri’d against Roma, we ended the month by Allegri’ing (yes people, add it to Urban Dictionary) and beating Inter. Kostic ended a fantastic month for him by scoring the game’s only goal although it was almost ruled out due to another controversial/potential Rabiot handball in the buildup.
The Bianconeri defended for dear life for the rest of the game and restricted Inter to just one shot on target in the second half. It was a classic Allegri performance and a game where multiple Juventus players — Nicolo Fagioli, Federico Gatti, Manuel Locatelli etc. — stood out for their exceptional performances. A 1-0 victory against Inter and a fantastic way to end the month and continue our push for a Top 4 spot!
Through a funny coincidence, all four games for Juventus Women in March were against teams from Milan. First, there was the Coppa Italia semifinal first leg against Inter, which ended 1-1 after Beatrice Merlo of Inter canceled out Julia Grosso’s opener.
A week later came the second leg of that fixture, which went all the way to extra time after the two teams repeated the scoreline from the first leg in normal time. Sara Gunnarsdóttir put Juventus ahead after barely two minutes played, but Tabita Chawinga forced the tie into extra time with a late equalizer. Thankfully, Lineth Beerensteyn grabbed the winning goal in the 100th minute to secure a 2-1 victory and a place in the final where Juventus will face league leaders AS Roma!
Beerensteyn continued her good run of form with the opening goal against Milan in the next game in the Serie A. Like the men’s team has frequently done throughout the season, Joe Montemurro’s team had to defend its slender lead valiantly for the remainder of the game. Arianna Caruso scored the second and final goal of the game from the penalty spot in the last minute to secure a hard-fought 2-0 victory.
Last but not least was our third game in three weeks against Inter. This was the best performance of the three as goals in either half from Sembrant and Gunnarsdóttir put the Bianconere two goals ahead. Inter threatened to make a comeback when Chawinga scored from the rebound of her own shot in the 87th minute but Barbara Bonansea scored Juve’s third and final goal in the last minute after incredible work from Girelli. The Juventus legend dispossessed Inter defender Stefanie van der Gragt and quickly backheeled the ball to Bonansea for an easy finish: 3-1 and a great end to the month!
One player who has not only benefited from Juve’s early-season injury problems in midfield, but also convincingly claimed his position as a cornerstone of the Bianconeri’s future midfield is Nicolo Fagioli. It is, frankly, extraordinary to see how much progress the youngster has made in just seven months or so. He has gone from a promising youngster to an established starter who scored his first senior goal in the first Derby D’Italia and was a contender for the man-of-the-match in the second.
In a way, Fagioli (and his colleague Fabio Miretti, who has also progressed immensely this season) has done something that rarely happens in the higher levels of Italian football: get a manager of a top club to trust young Italian players. Various national team managers and former players have (rightly) criticized Serie A managers (especially those of the top 4-6 teams) for how risk-averse they are when it comes to playing and trusting young Italian players.
They believe it’s the main reason that the Italian national team is in such bad shape at the moment (except for the Euro 2020 victory, which looks more and more like an anomaly). All of this makes Fagioli and Miretti’s achievements this season so much more impressive.
That said, as the old saying in the entrepreneurship world goes, what got you here won’t get you there. The challenge now is to ensure that they have the support on- and off the pitch to help them maintain this incredible level of performances and then reach the next level in their careers. If they keep doing what they’re doing, though, I have no doubt they’ll achieve that and more in the coming years.