Juventus are not used to losing matches in Serie A. The Bianconeri, Italy’s most successful and well-supported club, have won the last four league titles on the peninsula and were widely backed to secure a fifth consecutive championship this term.

Things did not begin well for Max Allegri’s side, however. A shock opening-day loss at home to Udinese was not the start to the season most people envisaged, with a subsequent defeat to Roma and draw with Chievo leaving Juventus with just one point from their opening three matches.

The departure of Arturo Vidal (to Bayern Munich), Andrea Pirlo (New York City) and Carlos Tevez (Boca Juniors) – all key figures in last season’s domestic double and run to the Champions League final – clearly had an effect, but injuries and a loss of form suffered by many of the players who remained also proved costly early on. A 2-0 win at Genoa hinted that the worst was behind Juventus, but a subsequent 1-1 draw at home to Frosinone and 2-1 defeat against Napoli left the Old Lady in the bottom half of the table and Allegri scratching his head.

Fortunately for the Turin-based giants, that setback at the Stadio San Paolo looks to have been the nadir. Juve have won four of their six Serie A encounters since then, with a 0-0 draw with Inter at San Siro in October also going down as a positive result.

Indeed, there is now hope that a title challenge may not be out of the question after all. Juventus currently find themselves nine points behind Inter and Fiorentina at the top but, with important players finding form and the squad continuing to gel, a fifth successive Scudetto remains a realistic enough target.

What makes the title race in Italy so intriguing this year is that there is no team without flaws: Inter are severely lacking in creativity; Roma look shaky at the back; Fiorentina do not possess much strength in depth; Napoli are heavily reliant on Gonzalo Higuain; and Milan simply lack the requisite quality all over the pitch to compete at the very top of the table.

Where Juventus have a clear advantage is in their experience of winning trophies. Gianluigi Buffon, Patrice Evra, Giorgio Chiellini, Claudio Marchisio, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Andrea Bazargli, Mario Mandzukic, Leonardo Bonucci and Sami Khedira are all vastly experienced professionals, while even younger players such as Paul Pogba, Alex Sandro and Alvaro Morata know what it is like to compete for major honours. As the season grows older and the race for silverware intensifies, it could be that factor that makes the difference.

Juventus, though, know that they cannot afford another major blip between now and the campaign’s end; falling significantly more than nine points behind the summit would make the task of finishing top of the pile once more extremely difficult indeed.

In a way, then, the pressure remains on Juventus despite the fact that many onlookers now consider Roma, Inter and Napoli the three favourites. Max Allegri’s side may not be the pacesetters this year, but they will certainly not give up their crown without a fight.

About the Author – Greg Lea

Freelance football writer. Work published by FourFourTwo, The Guardian, World Soccer, Goal, The National, Squawka, Eurosport, The Blizzard + others.

Twitter @GregLeaFootball


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