It's no wonder that Juventus' most critical match of the season happens on the day of the Champions League quarter-finals.
However, the fact that it is a league game is surprising. This is the ideal day for a make-up game, as all Serie A teams have already been excluded from Europe's biggest tournament.
Napoli at Juventus, a matchup on Match day 3, was originally awarded to Juve as a standard 3-0 win when Napoli was unable to make the trip due to coronavirus cases. But Napoli won an appeal and it was postponed. It's the third time in three months that the two teams meet — Juve won 2-0 in Supercoppa Italia on January 20 and Napoli 1-0 in Serie A on February 13 in Naples — and the consequences add up.
Juve's 2-2 draw against rivals Turin on Saturday put the nine-time defending champions in fourth with an aspiring Napoli who have won six of their last eight.
Milan, Juve and Roma unexpectedly lost points to lower-ranking opponents on Saturday, while Inter (nine straight wins), Atalanta (seven wins in eight games), Napoli (six wins in eight) and Lazio (three wins in a row, 10) in 13) all continued runs of star shape.
Seven teams have excelled in Italy all season (eighth place, Hellas Verona, is 10 points behind Roma) but only six have a place in Europe next year and only four have the Champions League. An automatic commercial was considered a birthright for Juve in the modern era, but they're under more stress than they have been for a while.
With Inter safe, FiveThirtyEight's soccer predictions offer four teams a chance of more than 50% to reach the three remaining Champions League places — Atalanta with 80%, Milan with 73%, Juventus with 71% and Napoli with 53%. Lazio's chances have also almost doubled in the last month, from 10% to 18%.
At least two of these teams will be out, and a final loser on Wednesday could see their chances shift a good amount.
Manager Andrea Pirlo's ultra-modern tactical perspective on the club has translated wonderfully at times and made Juve very aesthetic at times, but the squad is not where it needs to be for the approach to work fully. Ronaldo scores as many goals as he was made to score, but his presence puts pressure on everyone else as (a) the pushing has never been an important part of his game and (b) he's 36 years old again.
In the meantime, the midfield is under enormous strain in the build-up game, and that is where most of the youth live.
Saturday's draw against relegation-threatened Turin told every story of the season in just 90 minutes. After McKennie and his backups Arthur Melo and Paulo Dybala were banned from attending a party at McKennie's house, Juve controlled long stretches of the game, scoring 70% possession and 22 shot attempts with a value of 3.5 expected goals (xG) for Torinos 10 and 1,2. Respectively. Chiesa's 13th-minute goal gave Juve an early lead, but they fell asleep and briefly gave up control of the game. Turin scored four of their 10 shots and 0.8 of their 1.2 xG in the 14 minutes after Chiesa's hit, until Tonny Sanabria officially linked the match with a put-back.
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