3 things that must happen for Juventus to consider 2020 a success
Juventus have had an extremely trophy-rich decade. With a record 8 consecutive Scudettos and 4 consecutive Coppa Italia titles, the Bianconeri were the team to beat on the domestic scene for large swathes of the decade that was 2010 to 2019. The only piece of silverware missing from the Bianconeri's cabinet during this period was the UEFA Champions League.
One of two teams, the other being Atletico Madrid, that fell short in two Champions League finals during the decade, European success was on their minds when they acquired the services of a 33-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo for €100 million in the summer of 2018-19. The Bianconeri did not just shell out the highest transfer fee by an Italian club or that by any club for a player past 30 just to bolster their domestic trophy cabinet.
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Following a lukewarm group-stage campaign, Ronaldo came into his own in the knockout stage of the competition. The Portugal captain's record-equalling Champions League 8th hat-trick in the second round of Juventus' Round of 16 clash with Atletico helped the Bianconeri successfully overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit. However, in the quarterfinals, despite Ronaldo scoring in both fixtures, Juventus fell to a 2-3 aggregate defeat following 1-2 loss to Ajax in the second leg.
Juventus were the runaway favourites for the Serie A title and they did not disappoint on that front. But based solely on their European showing, the 2018-19 season for the Bianconeri can at best be described as one of modest success. Juventus would be keen to improve their European form and fortune this year as they look for their first European Cup/Champions League title in over two and a half decades following a record five consecutive failed attempts in the final. On that note, let us have a look at 3 things the Bianconeri would look for to consider 2020 a successful calendar year.
1. Win the Champions League
For all their domestic success, Juventus have largely failed to replicate their domestic dominance on the European stage to land the Champions League title.
A return of just 1 title from 6 finals in the Champions League era is truly an underwhelming one for a club brimming with rich domestic title-winning pedigree and talent. The Bianconeri faithful, who have been starved of European success for more than two decades, were left enamoured by a stunning overhead goal by the all-time Champions League scorer Cristiano Ronaldo as Real Madrid ran out 3-0 victors in the 2017-18 quarter-final first leg in Turin.
Following the moment of brilliance, Ronaldo was almost left blushing by a rare standing ovation at the ground of an away team as Juventus' legendary keeper Gianluigi Buffon for once didn't curse his defence for conceding a goal of breathtaking quality and warmly applauded the Portugal captain. A few weeks later, a 33-year-old Ronaldo, fresh off three consecutive Champions League title-winning campaigns with Real Madrid, arrived in Turin.
The Bianconeri know that the presence of Ronaldo alone would not guarantee European success. The all-time Champions League top-scorer needs to see enough of the ball in the attacking third of the pitch which Juventus have struggled to consistently accomplish in the last one and a half years. Juventus do not play a counter-attacking style of football like Real Madrid where Ronaldo is at his lethal best.
The Old Lady of Turin need to be stingy at the back and also figure out the best personnel and formations to maximise the threat of Ronaldo on the European stage if they are to win their first Champions League title since 1995-96.
2. Not relinquish their Serie A stranglehold
For all their focus on European glory, Juventus can ill afford to neglect the domestic front completely. The Bianconeri have won a record 8 consecutive titles on the trot since AC Milan lifted the 2010-11 Scudetto and wouldn't want to let go of their Serie A stranglehold any time soon.
No Juventus season would be truly considered successful if they fail to win the Scudetto. The Turin team are level atop the 2019-20 Serie A table, only trailing league leaders Internazionale on goal difference. Juventus have title-winning pedigree and squad strength to rely on as they look to stave off what looks likely to be a stern challenge from the Nerazzurri in the second half of the season.
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3. Bolster an ageing squad
With an average age of 29, Juventus do have a lot of experience in their squad. But with long-serving stalwarts like Gianluigi Buffon (41), Giorgio Chiellini (35), Leonardo Bonucci (32), Blaise Matuidi (32), Gonzalo Higuain (32), and Juan Cuadrado (31) all north of 30, the club know they need to build a team for the future sooner rather than later.
Juventus did move in the right direction last summer when they sealed the services of the in-demand Dutch centre-back Matthijs de Ligt, who at 20, is the youngest member of the Bianconeri squad and is expected to be one of the defensive leaders for the club for years to come.
However, the Bianconeri need to do more in this aspect, as they need an ideal blend of youth and experience to give themselves the best chance of success across all competitions. Juventus need to bolster every department of their team in 2020 to remain competitive as the ageing stalwarts of the squad begin to see their powers wane away.