When the final four games of the andata arrived in mid-January, it was looked at as the chance for Juventus to both shake off their inconsistent ways while also getting back into the Scudetto race against two of its closest rivals. Back then, in the early days of the 2021 calendar year, Juve were still considered title contenders, with over half a season worth of games left and plenty of points still up for grabs.
As we sit here in the early days of May with the season only having four games left, this same stretch where Juventus once thought it could get back into the Scudetto race has turned into one where their European hopes hang in the balance. (And even then their European fate might be completely out of their hands even though they’re responsible for it all going down the way it did.)
Up first: An AC Milan side that is essentially in the same situation that Juventus is currently in. Rather than this being a top-of-the-table kind of clash like it was in January, there is no title at stake here. Instead, as Juventus and Milan enter level on 69 points (nice) in third place in the Serie A table, both are only trying to fortify their spot as one of Italy’s Champions League representatives. Both teams have been struggling of late, with Milan in drastically different form than they were when the two historic rivals met four months ago.
That could work out in Juve’s favor, but it’s also something we’ve said plenty of times before in the fact that a team that hasn’t been playing all that well before facing the Bianconeri suddenly are being lauded for what they did a couple of hours after kickoff.
At this rate, though, with how few games are left and who is still remaining on the schedule following Milan’s trip to Turin this weekend, this is going to be a final stretch of the season where Juventus plays more like how they did in January rather than how they did in March and April.
As we saw last weekend when Cristiano Ronaldo’s pair of goals within the span of a couple of minutes bailed Juventus out, the biggest thing right now is to get the three points and go onto the next fixture. But, as we know, the better teams that Juve play in this end-of-the-season stretch, if they play as poorly as they did against Udinese against the likes of Milan, Sassuolo and then
newly-minted Serie A champions forever frauds Inter, You better believe that if Juventus come out struggling like they did against Udinese and Fiorentina before that then Milan will take advantage of it.
That was a point of emphasis during Andrea Pirlo’s pre-match conference, and that’s the kind of thing will be one of the biggest keys to success for Juventus on Sunday night. If they don’t kick the habit of struggling early in games, then they could very well be looking trouble right in the face once again.
You could be able to get away with it against mid-table teams. But against a team you’re tied with in the standings that is fighting for the same exact thing you are with only a few games remaining on the schedule? Yeah, might want to end all of that.
But at the current rate, we’ve seen Juventus play poorly more often than they have played well over the last month or two. They are limping to the finishing line rather running strong through the table like an all-world marathon runner. With only 12 more points up for grabs, the chances to win are shrinking and shrinking. It’s now or never when it comes to Juventus clinching a Champions League spot — and then I guess we’ll see what happens in terms of actually being in the Champions League.