It is hard to get one’s mind around the fact Juventus would be headed into a Champions League game against Real Madrid facing their first crisis as a team for the first time in three seasons.
Now only has their play in Serie A league play not been up to the standards they have demonstrated over the past two seasons, they are in trouble of not qualifying into the knockout stages of the Champions League given that they have drawn their first two games in group play, and that their next two games are against Real Madrid.
The reason for the “mini-crisis” talk around Juventus is because of the play of their defense and in particular, their back-three.
Early in the season, the Juventus defense was not made to pay for lax defending as Gianluigi Buffon helped to bail out his defense with some fine saves. But that has changed within the last month or so as they have been scored upon more frequently than they had been in the previous two seasons with Antonio Conte as coach.
On Sunday against Fiorentina in league play, Juventus were leading 2-0 in the second half and within the span of 24 minutes, they gave up four goals and ended up losing 4-2. This was a perfect illustration of why Juventus find themselves in a “mini-crisis”. When a defense like Juventus with players like Giorgio Chiellini, Leandro Bonucci, and Andrea Brazagli are struggling, it can bring the team into a collective slump.
In addition to those players slumping, it is clear that the play of the Juventus’ wing-backs have exposed the defense more than usual and as a result, it has called into question whether Juventus should shift from a 3-5-2 formation to a 4-3-3 formation in order to help fortify the defense. Many forget that defending is alone not just a responsibility of a team’s defenders, but also a product of collective team play.
In the case of Juventus, there have been a number of times that midfield have not been fully concentrated and as a result, the opposition has been able to make free and uninterrupted runs into the final third to create more scoring chances than usual. The best evidence of this came in Juventus’ last Champions League game when they hosted Galatasaray. After having taken a 2-1 lead with five minutes left, they gave up an equalizer less than a minute after they scored.
In order for Juventus to end the talk of their bad play, they are going to have to win or at the very least draw against Real Madrid on Wednesday. This, of course, will be a very tough task given that Real Madrid are clicking on all cylinders at the moment offensively and will pressure a shaky Juventus defense to the fullest.
That said, this game also gives Juventus the chance to begin turning things around and getting people talking about their play positively as opposed to focusing on what’s wrong with them.