Champions League midterm report: Juventus get it all wrong yet again

Olympiakos vs Juventus

After the international break and one round of Serie A action, Juventus resumed their European campaign as they  aspire to make it out of their group in this year’s edition of the Champions League. For the reigning Scudetto champions, matchday two ended in disappointment as they fell to a 1-0 loss to La Liga winners Atlético Madrid, and they had been held to a shock 1-1 draw with basement boys Sassuolo prior to their trip to take on Greek outfit Olympiakos.

The hosts had shocked many by powering past last season’s Champions League runners up Atleti in their first group stage match, but then succumbed to a 2-0 loss to Malmo who played fantastically in an all-out effort to make sure they won’t finish their group without earning a point. As a result, the game between the Bianconeri and their Greek opponents was one that would be a winner-take-all kind of meeting, in which each team were seeking to rebound from their respective losses.

After the disaster in Istanbul that effectively dumped them out of the group stage last season, the pressure is on this time for them to get things right in their third season playing continental football. However, it appears that Massimiliano Allegri’s men haven’t learned from their defeat in the Spanish capital. La Vecchia Signora indeed were ironically symbolic of their nickname with Andrea Pirlo, widely heralded for his pin-point passing ability, looking sluggish and lethargic as the 35-year-old struggles to re-gain his match fitness after being out with an injury for the early part of his team’s campaign.

In fact, he was at fault for their opponents’ only goal, losing the ball in the middle of the park for what would be the umpteenth time during his miserable 57 minutes on the pitch. And while his replacement, Claudio Marchisio – who has done a solid job of replacing the veteran, brought some spark in the middle of the park, it was too little, too late as Olympiakos’ predictably ultra-defensive approach and goalkeeper Roberto’s good performance ensured they pulled off another win in front of their own fans.

As such, Juventus will have quite some work to do as they welcome their Greek foes to Turin, but they have one thing going for them: no team has been able to escape their home ground with all three points since Bayern Munich defeated them 2-0 in April 2013. Furthermore, Wednesday’s match was the first time Olympiakos have been able to defeat the Bianconeri; the last two meetings ended as a 9-1 aggregate win over two legs in the 2003/2004 Champions League group stages. Then again, a lot has changed in the past 11 seasons and while the fans will certainly be acting as the 12th man, it will be up to Allegri to get his tactics right this time and make smart choices as to what 11 players he chooses to take to the pitch.

For now, they will now have to turn their attention back to Serie A action by welcoming another side that has struggled this season – Palermo on Saturday, and obviously in theory it ought to be a confidence-boosting three points as they hope to build a more comfortable buffer between themselves and a determined Roma. Following that, there’s trips to take on Genoa and Empoli before the re-match with the Greeks, which should serve as some good pre-match trial runs before the big exam on November 4th. As things stand, the Bianconeri aren’t out of it yet, but should they slip up again, it will become a situation uncomfortably similar to the one they dealt with last season, except this time, there might not be another last-gasp opportunity to salvage things.

Freelance football journalist based in New York. Primarily support AC Milan as well as the Ghanaian and Italian NT's, but you'll find me watching the Bundesliga and Premier League as well--enjoy a good game, regardless of where it's being played. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of my favourite players. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @MichelleB289...
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