Following an inconsistent spell, the champions are in danger of losing touch with table-topping Inter, while the Aquile are desperate to remain in the mix for a European place at the end of the season.
Ahead of their hard-fought midweek victory over Serie A debutants Spezia, Juventus had only won one of their last five games in all competitions – having won each of the previous six. A first hour which could feasibly have gone either way was followed by a tension-relieving three-goal haul in the final 30 minutes at the Allianz Stadium, as Juve ultimately emerged victorious in the battle of the Bianconeri.
With potentially definitive fixtures – first against Lazio and then versus Porto (as Juventus seek to turn around a 2-1 deficit in the Champions League) to come in the next few days, under-pressure coach Andrea Pirlo was acutely aware that there could be no excuses for failing to put away more modest opposition in midweek.
As confirmation was given to a new date for the controversially postponed game with Napoli – now to be held in a fortnight’s time – the champions must get back to their ruthless best of years past, though they have only ever done so intermittently this term.
Despite their difficulties of late, Juventus have won their last six Serie A home matches, scoring at least twice on each occasion (17 in total) and keeping a clean sheet in the most recent four. In fact, all season long, Pirlo’s men have customarily been a tough proposition on home soil, with nine wins and two draws from 12 league contests at their state-of-the-art home.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the resources Pirlo has had to work with – even amid a defensive injury crisis – Juventus also boast the best defence in the league, with only two goals conceded in the last seven outings. Again, at home, their stats are even more pleasing on the eye, with a record of just eight goals against all season.
At the other end of the pitch, one man continues to lead the way for the Bianconeri and remains entirely irreplaceable. With his late strike on Tuesday, top scorer and Capocannoniere contender Cristiano Ronaldo – now on 20 Serie A goals in the 2020/21 campaign to date – became the first player in the top five European leagues to register at least 20 league goals in each of the last 12 seasons; a testament to his immutable consistency over the years.
Having endured a saga very similar to that of Juventus last autumn, when they turned up to face a no-show Napoli side, Lazio have had extra time on the training pitch to prepare for their trip to Turin.
Set to face the city’s second side on Friday night, the game was eventually postponed just ahead of kickoff, as virus-stricken Torino were banned from travelling to Rome by the local public health authorities. Though Lazio and the refereeing team dutifully arrived at Stadio Olimpico for the ‘ghost game’, the farce was swiftly concluded soon after.
Curiously, even though Simone Inzaghi’s men are likely to be awarded an automatic 3-0 victory – naturally, Torino will have the right to appeal – one of the games being investigated for irregularities in their own COVID-19 testing programme was the reverse fixture earlier this season, which could eventually see Lazio docked three points – which would then be handed to the Granata.
Such off-pitch controversy aside, Lazio’s last appearance proper in the top flight saw them beaten 2-0 by Bologna at Dall’Ara last weekend, leaving them in seventh place and with work to do in order to keep pace with the other contestants for European football next season.
Perhaps still feeling the effects of their Champions League collapse at home to Bayern Munich, top scorer Ciro Immobile’s uncharacteristically weak first-half penalty was saved by Bologna goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski and just minutes later Bologna took an unexpected lead, which they would never relinquish.
After that disappointing defeat in Emilia, the Aquile have now lost two of their last three league games – as many as they had in the previous 12 – and suffered that morale-crushing thumping by Bayern.
They will, however, have fond memories of the thrilling conclusion to their last meeting with Juventus, in November, which ended in a 1-1 draw when super sub Felipe Caicedo scored the equalising goal for the Biancocelesti deep into stoppage time.