ALBERTO'S WEEKLY COLUMN: WEEK 9

Here we are Juventini, discussing an unbeaten week for our beloved Old Lady and typically this would mean we are happy but with the tricky away fixture against Verona ending in a draw. The ability to remain positive and keep hope alive for that tenth straight scudetto has been fading for most fans and quickly might I add. The draw saw Juve end up with a 10 point deficit to Inter albeit with a game in hand and awaiting a verdict in regard to some possible Covid result tampering from Lazio which if both went in our favour would mean we could swing six points to the good and only sit 4 points out. All is not lost yet. Our faith as fans though is and will be tested.This past decade has been an incredible one for Juventini no doubt. Perhaps fueling this incredible entitlement to winning the scudetto. However, now with the title in jeopardy and Juventus having the worst season in terms of points won in the past decade, questions are being asked of the board, of Pirlo and of the players. Are we good enough? Is Pirlo good enough? Let's break this past week down a bit.

Let's start with the league in general. The league and quality of it, has made a big step up in recent years. As much as it may pain us to say our bitter rivals in black and blue have done a great job being lead by not only our former director but the manager who started our cycle in 2011-12. The league is much stronger now and even the lower sides are proving to pose a respectable threat to the top teams. This match against Verona was always going to be tough. If you had thought this was going to be a wide open match with many opportunities then I would question if you have been paying attention to this season and whether or not you respect the opposition because they are a well managed, pesky side who can create matchup issues asnd find ways to hurt opponents.

Then we have a situation we are no strangers to, especially this time of year and that's injuries. I have never seen an injury report that could be mistaken for a team list. This would leave the best of managers in a tough spot let alone a first time manager like Pirlo. We have seen big clubs in europe struggle with a smaller list of absentees. To have doubts and be able to make a call on Pirlo at this point and say he should be relieved of his duties, in my opinion is a bit harsh due to this, as well as many other reasons, and I would remind everyone when we were almost at full strength, again almost full strength, as we were still missing key players throughout all periods of the season so far, he went through a make or break month of January almost flawlessly only dropping points in one match. We were waiting on only Paulo Dybala three weeks ago and now find ourselves in a scenario where we are playing matches with only one main roster player on the bench and 3 -4 players on the pitch who are not even at 100%. Asking for a U-23 player to come in and make a difference and be an answer is a tall task yet this is the shout being made. Pirlo faced criticism for not having Fagioli in the match against Verona. It was later determined that even he was ill and not feeling well. So, even our first time managers subs are not up to it. The draw is not the worst of results really and I said it earlier it isn't a really upssetting result when you factor in the opponent and the fact it was away from home, the frustration for me would still lie in the dropped points early in the season where scenarios were mismanaged and players who were part of your spine weren't getting the job done. This one is the least of the worries in my opinion and it wasn't a complete blackout like we saw against Fiorentina and the first match against Inter and that makes me hopeful that we have at least dialed into something especially factoring in how many players have been missing.

The key for this home stretch of the season will be getting this team healthy. With faith for most in question we moved onto our midweek match against Spezia and in a situation that was so frustrating you could only laugh, yet another injury was reported, this one before the match even took place and to our stud Centre-Back Matthijs De Ligt.

As we prepare to watch our Bianconeri take on Spezia the news broke out of De Ligt not being able to participate as a knock he suffered against Verona was aggravated in warm ups. Pirlo made a decision which was good and bad at the same time. He would slide Sandro into a Centre-Back role and call upon Frabotta to play out on the flank. Sandro did a great job but Frabotta was not enough, however Pirlo made the right call in the 60' to change Frabotta for Bernardeschi and bring in Morata and he was rewarded almost instantly with the two connecting on the first goal of the match. Juve would see that match out adding another through Chiesa and Ronaldo and be able to rest and hopefully recover some bodies for the next matchup which will be a big one against Lazio. Instead we receive a report that Bentancur has tested positive for COVID. When it rains it pours and that has literally been par for the course for Juventus this season when it comes to injuries and absentees. The positives to follow were De Ligt will be available for Saturday's match and Bonucci and Cuadrado are expected to be back as well, they may not be getting minutes but they could be on the team list and Giorgio Chiellini could be back for the Champions League second leg match against Porto Next week as well. This still would leave our midfielder Arthur out and Bentancur and of course we still await Paulo Dybala. ALso noteworthy is Morata will be in the team list but he is also not expected to start against Lazio as he still continues to have limitations. This really highlights the situation Pirlo is in and has been in and again even an experienced manager would be struggling for not only consistency but determining what's the right and wrong call in terms of lineups, in terms of risk involving players not quite 100% as well. McKennie being one of those players who has played through a lingering hip injury, the american was noticeably limping after being subbed off against Spezia. While we can be frustrated with some of the results I feel overlooking this absurd scenario involving injuries is unfair to Pirlo.

My advice ahead of Juventus vs Lazio is the same as it was after the draw against Verona, buckle up and get ready for a bumpy ride and wait to see where the dust settles and then let's look at everything with complete perspective and trust that the team will make the necessary moves appropriate to boost this club and continue advancing the project. It has been reported by Mirko Di Natale that Pirlo has the full backing of management and he is not in danger, let's give him and the players our backing as fans and have some faith and if you look back and go to the archives you will see what's happened this past decade is unheard of and don't take any scudetto win for granted. If it goes a different direction come end of the season then Juve will get back to business and come back hungrier, which could take losing it to help stoke the fire some more. One way or another, try your best to enjoy everything. Look back on the decade and enjoy this run of dominance which I am positive will not be matched and if it will be probably won't be for my eyes to see if ever and enjoy Juventus making a shift and try to be excited about the young talents we are finding and what the future can hold. Sometimes in order to take a step forward you have to take a few steps back. So, let's get ready for a big matchup and see if th guys that do make that team sheet can rise to the occasion and get the job done and keep some pressure on the Milan clubs and remember we still have to face the nerazzurri one more time. It is far from over with 42 points still up for grabs for Juventus. Never ever lose faith Juventini, remember who we are and have faith we will fight....Fino Alla Fine



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