Today was supposed to be the day Juventus’ 2012 UEFA Champions League campaign was set to turn around. Playing on the road in Copenhagen against FC Nordsjaelland was supposed to give the team a boost and 3 points were a virtual guarantee. FC Nordsjaelland previously lost to Shakhtar 2-0 and 4-1 to Chelsea. If Juventus managed to get the full 3 points, the team would be in the top half of Group H and ease the pressure on qualification for the round of 16.
However, the plan did not pan out so well. FC Nordsjaelland managed to take the lead in the 51st minute off a perfectly placed free kick which left Juve fighting just to salvage a point in a hostile environment. Luckily Mirko Vucinic came in as a substitute in the 69th minute and leveled the score in the 81st. With 3 games left in Group H, Shakhtar is in first place after a shock victory over Chelsea, the Londoners are in 2nd with 4 points, and Juventus sit 3rd with 3 points from 3 matches. This means the team has to pretty much win the next 3 matches or risk being eliminated from Europe’s premier club competition.
So how did we end up here? 33 shots, 9 shots on target, 18 corner kicks, and 57% possession were not enough. With the lack of a clinical striker up front, the team could not finish one of the countless opportunities that they had to separate themselves from FC Nordsjaelland early on. Only after Vucinic & Bendtner’s introduction late in the 2nd half did Juve show any sort of life up front, and this was a little too late for the outcome.
The main question many fans and pundits are asking revolves around Conte’s team rotation strategy. With solid midfield depth it was surprising that Marchisio, Pirlo, and Vidal were all selected for this match after having barely any rest over the previous two weeks. International duties and the top of the table clash with Napoli clearly took a lot out of the core of the team and Conte should have experimented with some new blood in this match. Giaccherini, Pogba, and Caceres were all capable deputies who could have stood up and taken charge of Juve’s midfield. However, Only Giaccherini saw action when he came on in the 83rd minute.
Another question was Nick Bendtner’s exclusion from the starting line-up. Considering Bendtner has a lot of international experience with the FC Nordsjaelland players, it would have been beneficial to have him lead the line in this match. After coming on in the 76th minute, he showed more than Matri had shown in the entire match.
Conte’s record since taking charge at Juventus has proven he is a great coach and motivator. I’m hoping he’ll be able to put those motivational skills to use in the next 3 Champions League matches, because if we are to have any chance at qualifying for the round of 16, we must claim all 9 points from the remaining fixtures.