The first match and response opportunity for Juventus following their Champions League exit to Porto in the round of 16 were upon us. The team and its leaders having been criticized heavily in the aftermath of the defeat were looking to shift their focus and let their play do the talking, especially since they chose not to speak following the defeat. Some fans were able to move on from the defeat and some had a more difficult time. Some have become numb to the Champions League tournament as a whole with so many heartbreaking moments etched in the memories of Juventini. I would be lying if I said I wasn't a bit numb going into the match against Cagliari. Always wanting to see the team win but knowing if we saw a strong performance I would be frustrated this team and its players couldn't find a way against a Porto side that was down a man for much of the match in a do-or-die situation. Lineups, Injuries, pre-match build up were all a blur as I just wanted to see the reaction from the squad.
The lineup had come in and it had fans wondering if we would see that 4-2-3-1 hybrid again, as we did against Lazio, with Danilo, Cuadrado, and Sandro all in the lineup. Some fans still saw a 4-4-2 which I thought would be odd leaving only Rabiot as a true pivot based on the projected lineups. That ended up being exactly what we got. Again wanting to see this team with a positive reaction and give their fans hope that the scudetto will be fought for until the bitter end, I wasn't given as much thought to the lineup and wouldn't have cared if Pinsoglio was played as a striker. All that mattered was a win and with the right attitude and hunger. We got it and then some in a great first half for the team, which saw it's the main man Cristiano Ronaldo break the deadlock at the ten-minute mark and complete a hat trick by the thirty-second minute of the match. The team went into management mode and this opened the door for Cagliari to open up and attack Juventus and they were rewarded with a goal but that was as close as they would come. While the second half left a lot to be desired for Juventini, it was still a win and three points towards the chase for that tenth straight scudetto. A positive bounce back from the Champions League pain prior but the storm hadn't passed completely, not for me anyway. I must admit as I watched this match I couldn't help but still have some frustration carrying over from the match prior and Ronaldo was what we've needed from him for quite some time now in terms of more than just the goals. He was the main man, the attitude was on point, the urgency, the drive, and the execution was all spot on him and this should make me happy and it did in terms of Juventus winning the match but the fact this CR is not the CR I've seen over the past month and a half, kind of pissed me off, to be honest. The criticisms he faced after the elimination of Porto seemed to give him a personal boost and what bothered me is why couldn't he produce something close to that in either of the two legs against Porto? He doesn't need to even produce statistically for me but as a leader of the team I expect the fight and drive to be there, I expect him to be the guy the rest of the players look to as the example but I have seen an overly frustrated Ronaldo this season, one that may have lost belief in the club and squad he's with. Basically, he has been giving me the feeling that the honeymoon is over. Mirko Di Natale reported that Juventus was looking to extend Ronaldo's contract prior to the second leg fixture against Porto but it did not happen. The intention is still there from the club but the decision will ultimately be Ronaldo's. This story will no doubt follow this club for the rest of the season and it will be interesting to see what develops as it didn't take long for some old friend from real Madrid to start making comments hinting at a possible reunion. Buckle up those seat belts for this ride.
In other news through the week, we saw our Capitano Giorgio Chiellini may be calling it quits at season's end and while this will be an emotional farewell it definitely is time. Chiellini's a class defender still to this day but the reliability is no longer there. The club legend has been tipped to have a position within the club and rightfully so in my opinion. You can never have enough guys who bleed the colors around, this new project with younger players also highlights what a good idea it is to have these guys around in some capacity. Then as always as international break approaches the transfer rumors pickup. There are some options there for Juventus and I think one name will be a for sure addition and that's Locatelli, outside of that I think it will depend a lot on who leaves the club. Also, depending on what Ronaldo decides. if he stays for the remaining year of his contract or whether he chooses to leave will have a major impact on what moves Juve makes, so stay tuned. The last bit of news was the great news about Bentancur recovering from COVID and being available for the last match before the international break, which will take place this Sunday against Benevento.
We all remember that frustrating 1-1 draw against Benevento back on November 28th but we are in the crunch time of the season and having no competitions left to play in other than the league Juve will be expected to win this match as well as almost all of their remaining matches and if they want to have a sniff of that scudetto they're going to have to be almost perfect. Benevento is coming into this match struggling with 3 losses and 2 draws in their last 5 matches and not winning a match since Jan 6th. However, we know all too well that playing against Juventus seems to elevate any club and its players. The lads will have to be ready and face the match with the same attitude and mentality they did in the first half against Cagliari and this is what I will need to see to show my faith in this club is warranted. With the news of the Inter-Sassuolo match being postponed this is yet another scenario that should make it easy for the club to find motivation as to where luck and decisions and calls have seemed to go against us this year they are going for our opponents. Even the decision to penalize Lazio being postponed. All these surrounding situations would make winning the scudetto this year absolutely incredible and probably by far the most satisfying. If we pull this one off we will probably never lose it. Let's take it one match at a time though, so Benevento the bell tolls for you....let's do the damn thing! Frustrated or not I will always have faith and belief. Let's see what happens.
Fino Alla Fine!