Juventus will hope to have saved their best for last in an inconsistent season, as they seek to seal a top-four place at Bologna on Sunday, after lifting their 14th Coppa Italia in midweek.
A win combined with favourable results elsewhere could see the Bianconeri earn some consolation for surrendering their Serie A dominance to Inter this year, but defeat could confirm the end of Andrea Pirlo’s brief reign.
Ahead of Juventus legend Gianluigi Buffon’s final goodbye on Sunday, the club he has become synonymous with have finally put together a brief burst of form: outfoxing Atalanta in the second half of Wednesday’s cup final to claim a fifth Coppa Italia triumph in just seven years.
The serial winners once again proved that lifting trophies remains encoded in the club’s DNA, despite a dismal campaign by their high standards up to this point.
Young guns Dejan Kulusevski – who put in his finest 90 minutes since joining last summer – and Federico Chiesa were instrumental in overturning a buoyant Atalanta team, and undoubtedly represent the future of the club. Whether their current boss Pirlo will be a part of that new era remains to be seen, as a post-season review may see the former midfield maestro removed from his position after less than 12 months in charge.
If so, he could at least go out with a bang, as success in Sassuolo came after back-to-back wins in the league for his fifth-placed Juve side, with the most recent being a controversial 3-2 victory in last week’s Derby d’Italia against old foes Inter.
Even another win this weekend, though, may not prove enough to retain their status among Europe’s elite, as they must also rely on others’ misfortunes to help them retain a Champions League place which was previously a given: if Milan and Napoli both win, there will be nothing Juventus can do.
Pirlo could have few complaints, as his team have often been disjointed this term, having now conceded at least once in each of their last 15 games in all competitions – last enduring a longer such run over 60 years ago.
They cannot afford such laxity on Sunday, as they seek a 10th successive Serie A win over Bologna at a ground where they have lost only once in their last 30 visits.
In fact, the Emilian outfit have netted only five times at any venue against Juventus since 2012, so there can be no excuse for not at least fulfilling their side of the bargain.
Not only will Bologna have the sheer weight of recent precedent against them at Dall’Ara this Sunday, but will also come into one of the toughest possible games to conclude a Serie A campaign after only one win in their last nine matches.
Such a streak has seen Sinisa Mihajlovic’s men slip down the standings, though others’ failings have meant that they remain 11th in the table after the penultimate round, in which they drew 2-2 with a Verona side in desperate form.
However, defeat could even see them finish as low as 14th – well short of their target of just a second top-ten placing in the last nine years.
Undoubtedly, the Felsinei have suffered for their obvious shortcomings in the final third, as despite veteran striker Rodrigo Palacio’s late-season renaissance (four goals in his last four games after previously scoring just once), there has been little to get the blood racing for their dislocated fans this term.
They have, though, so far accumulated 26 of their 41 points on home soil, so hopes of finishing with a flourish may not be entirely futile for Mihajlovic – who extended his contract at the start of the season and should now stay on – and his unfancied underdogs.