It’s been a very interesting week for Juventus, to say the least. On January 8th, the Bianconeri cruised to a relatively comfortable 3-0 win over Bologna. That marked their 26th home win, which set a new Serie A record. However, a few days later, Massimiliano Allegri’s side took on Atalanta in Coppa Italia action. Despite winning that game, they conceded two goals. That also set another – unwanted – precedent. For the first time since February 2016, Juventus managed to ship two at Juventus Stadium; the last team to score two against the Bianconeri on their home turf was Bayern Munich during a 2-2 draw in the Champions League round of 16.
Was the writing on the wall? Perhaps. Last Sunday, Juventus headed to the Stadio Artemio Franchi to face Fiorentina. La Vecchia Signora had lost just one out of their last 17 meetings with the Viola, and that was back in October 2013. Interestingly enough, the-then Antonio Conte-led side had taken a 2-0 lead at half-time, only to be undone by a Giuseppe Rossi hat-trick en route to losing 4-2. That was also the only time the team had shipped four in Serie A under Conte’s tenure.
A season of unwanted firsts
This season has indeed been one of “firsts” – and not in a good way. In October, Allegri lost to AC Milan for the first time since being fired by the Rossoneri in January 2014. It also marked the first defeat for the Bianconeri overall since November 2012 in a fixture that had become dominated by Juventus. A month earlier, they had arrived in Italy’s fashion capital to take on Milan’s cross-town rivals Inter. Again, La Vecchia Signora lost by one goal (2-1). And again, that marked the first defeat for them in quite some time: also since November 2012, when they were beaten 3-1 in Turin, and the last time they lost at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza was in April 2010, when Inter clinched their last Scudetto.
Juventus also suffered a shock 3-1 defeat to Genoa in the first half of the season. That was the first time the Bianconeri shipped three goals in Serie A in one half since 2005, when they went down 3-0 to Milan. And in their final match of 2016, they lost on spot-kicks as Milan clinched their first piece of silverware since 2011. That was during their recent Supercoppa Italiana tie. Sure, there was some controversy near the end of the game where Juventus had a penalty shout, but football is not always fair. And the fact of the matter is, they had numerous chances to close out the game well before it got to that stage.
Have Fiorentina blown the title race back open?
Enter 2017. Their recent defeat to Fiorentina, which is their first since October 2013, now sees them just one point clear of Roma. Although Juventus do have a game in hand – against debutants Crotone – it is still not a position they want to find themselves in. The Giallorossi have won six out of their last seven games and this will give them even more added impetus as they take on Cagliari on Sunday – who also have the worst defense in the league. Meanwhile, the Bianconeri will have to regroup against Lazio. And anyone who has watched the Aquile this season will know that Simone Inzaghi’s side could be even more tricky than Fiorentina.
Perhaps Juve’s saving grace is the fact that they are playing at home. Currently, they’re backed at at 1/2 to come out on top. The last team to beat them at Juventus Stadium in Serie A Udinese back in August 2015, meaning that all their defeats this term have taken place on the road. That being said, the loss to Fiorentina have given their title rivals a spot of confidence to believe that maybe, just maybe, the Bianconeri are not untouchable. After all, they had to really labor to secure their spot in the next round of the Coppa Italia, and whilst they still do have the best defense in the league, it’s not by much as Roma have conceded just two less (18). Their attack is also bettered by Napoli (45) and Roma (41). So indeed, one can argue that yes, Fiorentina have effectively opened a door that was rapidly closing and given rivals like the Partenopei and the Lupi a glimmer of hope.
Juventus’s quest to make history, but what about the rest of the league?
No team have ever won six straight Scudetti, and it certainly would be great to see Juventus make history this May. From a neutral perspective, however, having a more interesting title race is better for the league as more competition will help Serie A fare better in European campaigns – or so they say. Over in Ligue 1, Nice and Monaco are shaking things up, and Bayern are not cruising as easily as they would like in the Bundesliga.
In any case, things could get pretty interesting in the second half of the season – but the key word is could. After all, Juve are not the five-time reigning champs by accident, and one only needs to go back to last term when people prematurely wrote them off after a bad start. This loss to Fiorentina could mark the turning point for them, just like losing to Sassuolo back in October 2015 proved to be the impetus to kick-start a ruthless run that saw them blitz the competition en route to making it Scudetto no. 5 on the trot.
After Lazio, Juventus next will take on Milan in the Coppa Italia in what could be another tricky match. Then there’s Inter coming up next month, and it goes without saying that indeed, these are some very vital games for Allegri’s side as they aim to keep their domestic ambitions – Serie A and the Coppa Italia – on solid footing ahead of their round of 16 Champions League clash against Porto later in February.
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