After riding a rollercoaster of emotions during the past few days, Juventus return to the more prosaic task of taking on Serie A strugglers Udinese on Saturday.
Joy from the Bianconeri’s thrilling comeback in the seven-goal thriller against Roma soon dissipated in midweek, as they were beaten by a last-minute goal from their bitterest rivals in the Supercoppa Italiana.
After being dramatically edged out in a high-stakes Derby d’Italia on Wednesday evening, Juventus found themselves back in the increasingly familiar territory of being second best to arch-foes Inter, who last year dethroned them as kings of Serie A.
With the final kick of a match apparently heading to penalties, substitute Alexis Sanchez sealed the champions’ first Supercoppa since 2010 by turning home a 121st-minute winner at San Siro.
Such a deflating defeat in Juve’s 10th straight appearance in one of Calcio’s showpiece occasions brought them right back down to earth, after a stunning fightback just three days previously in Rome.
Max Allegri’s men retrieved an almost hopeless cause last weekend, when they came from behind to edge fellow top four challengers Roma 4-3 at Stadio Olimpico, with Mattia De Sciglio the unlikely matchwinner and much-criticised goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny stopping Lorenzo Pellegrini’s late penalty to secure the points.
That victory leaves the Bianconeri placed fifth in the Serie A standings, now six points clear of Jose Mourinho’s side and just three behind Atalanta, who still have a game in hand. However, the majority of their victories have come on the road, and Juve rank only ninth in the division in terms of home form before Udinese’s arrival at the Allianz Stadium.
They do, though, have precedent on their side this weekend, having won their last five league games against the Fruilani in Turin – scoring at least twice on each occasion.
By contrast with their hosts, Udinese’s win in their last away league match at Cagliari came after collecting four defeats and three draws in their previous seven games on the road – indicating their struggle to find fluency outside of Udine.
It was, though, a crushing home defeat that proved an unsatisfactory start to 2022 last Sunday, with Gabriele Cioffi’s side previously posting consecutive four-goal wins in the Coppa Italia and Serie A – seeing off Crotone 4-0 in the cup before putting four past Cagliari without reply.
While that pair of wins to end last year pulled them clear of the drop zone and promised brighter times under a fresh face in the dugout – Cioffi taking up the reins from Luca Gotti in December – the Bianconeri’s belated return from a COVID-19 outbreak in the camp brought about a 6-2 reverse at the hands of Atalanta.
Matches against both Salernitana and Fiorentina had previously been postponed either side of the winter break, so Udinese still have a game or two in hand on most of their rivals in the scrap for survival.
However, taking anything from their encounter with Juve will come as a welcome bonus, given they have lost nine of their last 12 meetings with the Old Lady.
Juventus Serie A form:
Juventus form (all competitions):
Udinese Serie A form:
Udinese form (all competitions):
We say: Juventus 2-0 Udinese
The cruel nature of their last-gasp defeat in Milan may cause a hangover for Juventus this weekend, but once they get up and running, the home side should take charge of affairs against their brittle Bianconeri counterparts.
Udinese have not only had a serious virus outbreak to contend with, but also are short of some regular starters in defence, so the odds are stacked against them even escaping with a point.