Ever since Maurizio Sarri stepped foot into Turin, his goal has been set up for him. Put an end to the UEFA Champions League curse at Juventus. Indeed, the Old Lady has experienced a case of “so close yet so far” in Europe’s elite club competition, losing in the finale in 2015 and 2017 respectively.
Despite dominating the Serie A in winning the Italian title consecutively for the past eight seasons, Juventus have struggled to get past the final hurdle in the Champions League. Many felt the club-record fee move for Cristiano Ronaldo, which exponentially improved their popularity, would be the icing on top to take them to Europe’s pinnacle.
However, last season the Bianconeri were in for a rude awakening after losing to a young AFC Ajax side in the quarter-finals in a tie where they comfortably had the best betting odds of the knockout stages. They decided to let go off manager Massimiliano Allegri, with Sarri coming in to usher in a new era for the reigning Serie A champions. However, his start to the new job has been rather topsy-turvy so far.
Indeed, the Bianconeri were displaced off the top of Serie A after a drab draw at Fiorentina, allowing Inter Milan to go top for the first time since matchday 16 of the 2016/17 season! The Italian has urged his side to be more aggressive with their style, but his “Sarriball” still needs time to perfectly get tuned in at Juventus.
However, time is not on his side at the Serie A defending champions. There’s a need for immediate results in the huge expectations from Italy’s best side, with winning the Champions League being at number one. They still have the best betting odds for winning the league thanks to their history and sheer squad quality, but aren’t considered in the top 3-4 sides expected to win top European competition this season. Now, Juventus fans would probably swap a season of not winning the league title for winning the Champions League, but that won’t come easy.
Europe’s pinnacle is packed with world-class oppositions and Juventus’ surrendering a 2-0 lead at Atletico Madrid provided early worrying signs. Their captain Giorgio Chiellini is still out for a lengthy period, while their attack doesn’t look the most compelling either. While Aaron Ramsey’s brought that attacking bite with his clinical nature in the final third, Adrien Rabiot’s yet to properly implement himself into the side.
Sarri has done a remarkable job in improving the ageing stars like Gonzalo Higuain, Blaise Matuidi and Sami Khedira, but he must trust younger legs to handle the Champions League’s intensity going forward. Cristiano Ronaldo will probably be a man on a mission after watching Lionel Messi win another FIFA’s The Best award, as Sarri must revolve his attack around the Portuguese.
Regardless of his age, Ronaldo is still a game-changer with his decisive strikes and will only get better as the season progresses. If Juventus can get the best out of him, hold a strong defensive line with Matthijs De Ligt and Leonardo Bonnucci and bring more urgency to their game, winning the Champions League would be a stark reality this season.