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Serie A - Football: What has gone wrong at Juventus?

19 April 2022 07:46:01 EST
Forward Paulo Dybala is heading for a new challenge at the end of the season

Juventus fans demand silverware every season, so Wednesday's Coppa Italia semi-final second leg against Fiorentina is a crucial game for the Turin giants.

The Coppa, which Juve are 2.20 to lift, has taken on extra significance after recent setbacks left the Old Lady facing the prospect of ending the campaign without a major trophy for the first time in more than a decade.

Juventus pinched a 1-0 win in the semi-final first leg thanks to a bizarre own goal from Fiorentina defender Lorenzo Venuti in injury-time in Florence.

However, La Viola dominated the home leg, racking up 22 attempts at goal to Juve's six, and they are 3.50 to set up a Coppa Italia final against the winners of Tuesday's semi between Inter Milan and AC Milan, with the Old Lady 1.28 to make the final.

Juve out of the Scudetto race

The Milan clubs, along with third-placed Napoli, are also scrapping for the title in Serie A - an honour that Juventus claimed in nine consecutive seasons from 2011/12 to 2020/21.

Last term they could finish only fourth under club legend Andrea Pirlo, although the former Italy playmaker did pick up the Coppa Italia and the Italian Super Cup before being sacked at the end of the campaign - Juve are 1.006 to finish in the top four again this season.

Pirlo's successor Massimiliano Allegri won five Serie A titles and four Coppas during a glorious first spell as Juve coach, also leading them to the Champions League final in 2015 and 2017, but things have not gone so smoothly on his return to Turin.

Cristiano Ronaldo - the top goalscorer in Serie A last season - left to rejoin Manchester United at the end of August and Juve suffered five defeats, against Empoli, Napoli, Sassuolo, Verona and Atalanta, in their first 14 league fixtures of the 2021/22 season.

That left them tailed off in the race for Lo Scudetto, although their only loss in 19 subsequent matches came against defending champions Inter, who also beat them in January's Super Cup final thanks to a 121st-minute winner from Alexis Sanchez.

A decent European run could have eased the pressure on Allegri, but Juve were dumped out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage in comprehensive fashion, losing 3-0 at home to Villarreal after a 1-1 draw in the away leg.

Vlahovic makes an impact

And, following their 1-0 league loss to title-chasing Inter at the start of April, Juve dropped more points last weekend when they needed a late equaliser from striker Dusan Vlahovic to claim a 1-1 draw at home to nine-man Bologna.

The Old Lady won the race to sign Vlahovic, one of the most sought-after young forwards in Europe, from Fiorentina in January and he is 2.30 to score at any time against his former club on Wednesday.

Vlahovic has scored six times in his first nine Serie A starts for Juve, as well as notching a first-minute goal in the away leg against Villarreal, but Juve's creativity has been hampered by a midfield injury crisis.

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Injuries to key players costly

Federico Chiesa, a star of Italy's Euro 2020 triumph last summer, suffered a season-ending knee injury against Roma in January and more recently Allegri has been missing Manuel Locatelli, Arthur Melo and young USA international Weston McKennie.

Juve's midfield resources were already reduced by the January departures of Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur to Tottenham, as well as Aaron Ramsey's loan move to Rangers.

Defensive stalwarts Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci have also spent time on the sidelines and Juan Cuadrado and Matthijs de Ligt are the only outfield players to have started more than 24 of Juve's 33 Serie A games this season.

Dybala departure a loss for Allegri

Allegri's inability to select a settled starting XI  has clearly had a negative impact on his side's form and the club also confirmed in March that Argentina forward Paulo Dybala - 2.50 to score at any time against Fiorentina - will leave Turin when his current contract expires at the end of the season.

Allegri has plenty of credit in the bank after his trophy-laden first spell as Juve boss between 2014 and 2019 and making the top four would be an achievement of sorts after a difficult campaign for the Old Lady.

The long-term objective is to overhaul an ageing squad, regain the Scudetto and become competitive in the Champions League again, but for now Juve supporters may have to accept a sixth Coppa Italia in eight years at best.

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