Source: Imago Images
Source: Imago Images

Is Juventus back?

Football OlyBet 02.02.2024

When something is profoundly disturbing, people tend to look away. If you have been looking away for the past few years, this might come as a surprise. Juventus are fighting for the Serie A title once again, with a key match-up approaching on Sunday.

The first time Massimiliano Allegri was sacked by the Juventus board, they had won five straight Serie A titles, four Coppa Italias, and reached two Champions League finals in five seasons. The “mutual termination” happened after Allegri had won 70.48% of the games, the highest mark in the history of Juventus. His return at some point was almost inevitable. That was five years ago.

After that, Juventus (deep breath) won another title under Maurizio Sarri, went through the romantic Andrea Pirlo phase, saw the entire board of directors resign, got a 15-point deduction for manipulating budgets, won in court to have it overturned, received a ten-point penalty instead, lost players for failed drugs tests and violating betting rules, and was ejected from European competitions by UEFA for one year.

Allegri returned to manage the team in 2021, but his first two full seasons ended trophyless. In any other era, for anyone else, it would have meant a second sacking. Juventus does not aim to finish fourth or reach the Europa League semis; his predecessors Sarri and Pirlo, both with a winning percentage of 65.38%, got the sack. Allegri’s second stint is currently at 57.58%.

But he is still there, and it seems – whatever the reasoning – that it has been the right call. This is a new Juventus. Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Cristiano Ronaldo, Paolo Dybala, Miralem Pjanic, Douglas Costa, Juan Cuadrado, Emre Can, Mario Mandžukic, and others have left. Talented youngsters are now coming to the fore, partly because there was nothing little to invest in the transfer window.

Second in Serie A and trailing Inter by a point, it is a good time to be a Juventus fan once again. Things are looking up. Winning another title now could be even more impressive than what Allegri did in his first stint.

Who will lead the Serie A table after Sunday, and what other games to enjoy over the weekend?

All times listed below are in Eastern European Standard Time (GMT+2).

Arsenal – Liverpool

Sunday 18:30

This should be a good one. After Jurgen Klopp’s announcement, Liverpool have been on a rampage … or maybe they are just being themselves since they have not lost a meaningful game since late September. There are some injury issues, but, based on the game young Conor Bradley had against Chelsea, it seems things can work out. All eyes will be on Diogo Jota – the Portuguese has scored or assisted every 41 minutes when playing at the Emirates.

For Arsenal, this is a must-win; they have stayed unbeaten against Liverpool in the league for the last three games, winning the corresponding fixture 3-2 last season. In these games, Arsenal has always opened the scoring within ten minutes. The last head-to-head was a 0-2 loss in the FA Cup, though Arsenal can take solace from the fact that they actually won the xG battle 1.71 to 0.65 on that day.

Real Betis – Getafe

Sunday 19:30

How high can Borja Mayoral carry Getafe? The 26-year-old Spaniard has scored 14 times in 22 games, accounting for half of Getafe’s goals. Of the top ten scorers in the league, he is best at both converting chances and shot accuracy. However, they are still tenth in the league, having won one of their 11 away games this season, but drawn five times.

Their opponent Real Betis has made Estadio Villamarin a fortress this season, with just one loss in eleven games, a 2-4 defeat to Barcelona last week; in December, they hosted both Real Madrid and Girona, coming away with a 1-1 draw on both occasions. But they have also drawn more often than anyone, with ten draws in 22 games, seven of them 1-1; that was also the score when they visited Getafe in October.

Inter Milan – Juventus

Sunday 21:45

When Inter (out)played Manchester City in the Champions League final in June, most of the casual football fans were surprised, and for a reason: no Italian team had even made the semi-finals in the previous four seasons, and Inter had only finished third in Serie A. This season, they are on a mission, with Lautaro Martinez leading the charge – the Argentinian has scored 19 goals in as many games.

Juventus are hanging on though as they have gone unbeaten since late September, with no losses in their last 17 games (13 wins and four draws). Both teams have so far only lost to Sassuolo – Juventus on September 23rd, and Inter on September 27th. Their first head-to-head ended in a 1-1 draw, with both Martinez and Juventus hotshot Dušan Vlahovic on the scoresheet.

Real Madrid – Atletico Madrid

Sunday 22:00

For Real, this will be huge. After opening a two-point gap with a pesky Girona side, their lead over the next closest competitors – their neighbours Atletico and hated rivals Barcelona – stands at ten points. Win this one, and one hand can be pretty much placed on the trophy. Lose it and everything starts over. In the league, they are on a six-game winning streak; their last (and so far only) loss came in September.

But on September 24th, they lost to Atletico away 1-3, and they travelled again in the Copa del Rey on January 18th. Again, Atletico won, this time 4-2 after extra time. On January 10th, in the Super Cup in Saudi Arabia, Real won 5-3 after extra time. These two can trade blows all day, all night, and it will be an unpredictable spectacle.


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