As long-shot outsiders for the Serie A title, Juventus will concentrate on securing a top four place on Saturday evening, when they meet mid-table Bologna in Turin.
While Juve bounced back from their Derby d’Italia defeat to edge out lowly Cagliari last weekend, the visitors ended a five-match winless streak by beating Sampdoria.
Having travelled to Sardinia after defeat to Inter apparently dashed their Scudetto hopes for another year, Juventus ultimately found that a scrappy 2-1 win over Cagliari took them closer to the Serie A summit than they have been for several months.
Still four points adrift of the reigning champions and a further two behind leaders Milan, with Napoli also in the mix, Juve start the weekend six points shy of first place – as close as they have been since the second round of the season.
Having crashed out of the Champions League to proven giant-killers Villarreal last month, it appeared that Max Allegri’s men only had the Coppa Italia and securing a top-four finish left to play for during the run-in, but their sheer consistency over the past few months has helped the 36-times champions sneak up on the rails.
Not only did defeat to Inter finally end a 16-match unbeaten streak in Serie A, it is the Bianconeri who have picked up the most points (28) in the second half of the season, and with Dusan Vlahovic chasing the Capocannoniere crown, they have scored 11 times in their last six league outings.
They will, therefore, be confident of at least maintaining their five-point buffer to Roma in fifth – particularly given their opponents on Saturday.
Juventus have come out on top in each of their last 11 Serie A meetings with Bologna; scoring 26 goals in the process. That represents their longest ongoing winning streak against any team in the Italian top flight.
Bologna’s recent inferiority in this match-up actually extends to losses in all of their last eight league visits to the Allianz Stadium, and the Emilian club have conceded at least twice in each of the last six.
Reaching further back into the history books, in their last 25 Serie A matches against Juve in Turin, Bologna have won only once – back in February 2011.
The odds are stacked, then, against Sinisa Mihajlovic’s side, who managed to provide their hospital-bound boss with an uplifting result last weekend, as they saw off Sampdoria 2-0 at Stadio Renato Dall’Ara.
Following a promising start to the season, the Rossoblu have been drifting down the standings to sit in the mediocrity of 12th place; failing to net a single goal in any of their four games preceding Samp’s visit.
Though Marko Arnautovic’s brace broke that drought at last, the Austrian striker has scored each of Bologna’s last five league goals – in their Serie A history, only one player has scored six of the club’s goals in succession – and not since 1933 – so their over-reliance on the mercurial frontman is quite apparent.
Indeed, Riccardo Orsolini was the previous squad member to notch for the Felsinei, way back in January, and largely due to such a paucity of goals, they have picked up the fewest points away from home of any side in the second half of this season.
Before his illness laid him low, Mihajlovic had done much remedial work on his team’s defensive discipline, though, and they have kept 11 clean sheets at this stage of a Serie A campaign for the first time since in 11 years. In the whole of 2020-21 they managed just five, so Juventus may well have their work cut out to break a more resilient outfit down.
Juventus Serie A form:
Juventus form (all competitions):
Bologna Serie A form:
We say: Juventus 2-0 Bologna
A repeat of the result of December’s reverse fixture at Dall’Ara is a strong possibility on Saturday, as Juventus are focused on working their way towards the top of the table and have been efficient against the league’s lesser lights in recent months.
Arnautovic aside, Bologna have been bereft of attacking threat, and they may be set to draw another blank this time out.