By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Editor
It’s a common sight in Italy, taking place in recreation ground changing rooms and bars, pizza places and piazzas. Football fans sit with a pen and that week’s pools coupon, shouting out fixtures and welcoming suggestions from their friends. But with each passing game this season, the very mention of Juventus brings increasing calls of ‘X’, with the Bianconeri becoming such draw specialists that their hopes of winning a first official title in eight years are going down the tubes, and fast.
Wednesday evening’s latest stalemate away to Bologna was symptomatic of their recent malaise. Their fifth draw in six league games has resulted in them dropping two points behind leaders AC Milan in the Scudetto race, despite the fact they remain unbeaten through the first 26 rounds of the campaign. Maybe those keen gamblers across the peninsula should turn their attentions to sticking money on the Old Lady ending the season without a loss, but also without the title.
Because right now, there is increasingly less fun in predicting Juve games. With each goal, you can almost immediately see the equaliser coming. And last night was no different.
Bologna grabbed the lead when Stephan Lichtsteiner decided at the last second to attempt to play offside, despite being in the perfect position to see that he was the last man able to curb Marco Di Vaio’s route to goal. Instead, the striker drew Gianluigi Buffon away from his line and finished expertly.
|MATCH FACTS | Bologna 1-1 Juventus
Yet again though, Juve’s push for a winner appeared to the neutral like something you’d seen a million times before. Like a bad TV series where all of the episodes have the same storyline, the Old Lady’s away trips in particular are suddenly taking on a remarkably similar vein. When Marco Borriello’s header was superbly kept out by Gillet, Claudio Marchisio fired straight back at the keeper, who reacted quickly to ensure Bologna held on for a vital point.
That header was about the best thing Borriello had to offer in yet another unconvincing display. Two months after his move from Roma which caused such consternation in the stands at Juventus Stadium, he still awaits his first goal. His situation sums up the current state at Vinovo, with the forwards still not having clubbed together to find the finishing power necessary to turn their side into potential champions. Once again, it felt like reading an old newspaper checking out Juve’s full-time stats.
Even the histrionics had a sense of deja-vu about them. Just as at Parma and Milan recently, there was much debate on the touchline over various refereeing calls. Antonio Conte was sent off for his protestations, and before long he was joined by Leonardo Bonucci, who arguably could have been shown a second yellow card long before Luca Banti eventually brandished it for a foul on Gaston Ramirez.
Bonucci’s mindless challenge was made all the worse when you consider his main mandate from his coach must have been to not get himself suspended, given that Juve’s other two first-choice centre-backs, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini, are both out with injuries. Bonucci’s stupidity strips them of a third for the trip to Genoa on Sunday.
|X MARKS THE SPOT | Juve's draws in 2011-12
|Sep 21 - Bologna (h)
||Sep 25 - Catania (a)||1-1
|Oct 16 - Chievo (a)
||Oct 22 - Genoa (h)||2-2
|Nov 29 - Napoli (a)
||Dec 12 - Roma (a)||1-1
|Dec 21 - Udinese (a)
||Jan 15 - Cagliari (h)||1-1
|Feb 5 - Siena (h)
||Feb 15 - Parma (a)||0-0
|Feb 25 - Milan (a)
||Mar 3 - Chievo (h)||1-1
|Mar 7 - Bologna (a)
Just like Perugia in 1978-79, Juventus are fast heading for a runners-up spot rather than a Scudetto triumph thanks to their inability to turn draws into wins. Having now drawn as many as they have won over 26 games, it will need a significant change in attitude during tight games for Juve to pull off a title win. While a leap from two successive seventh place finishes to second this term would be reason for some celebration, it is bound to feel like an opportunity missed.
As much as Milan have shown at vital times this season that they have the depth of ability to pick up wins even when not always convincing, the Turin giants have dominated game after game without ever looking likely to convert their superiority into a significant lead in the table.
Just like Perugia in ’79, they will almost certainly end the season with the best defensive record. But also just like Perugia in ’79, they will have the worst goals return of the sides at the top end of the league. And, crucially, they look set to finish the season with no defeats, but also no title.Follow Kris Voakes on