By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Writer
It didn’t start well, but then neither have lots of games in Juventus’ long run under Antonio Conte. There still appeared to be every reason to believe that the Bianconeri would pull through and get the win they were expected to collect with something to spare. But it wasn’t about to get any better, and their 1-1 draw against Nordsjaelland, and the non-performance that came with it, represents one of the most humiliating nights in the club’s European history. With all due respect, the Danes are one of the weakest teams the Champions League has ever witnessed.
Mirko Vucinic’s late equaliser does not cover up the cracks, nor do the 30 shots Juventus attempted - few of which were clear chances. After dropping two points to a side whose inclusion in Group E was greeted with a mixture of laughs and cheers by Juve fans, the Old Lady are potentially left needing three victories from their final three games just as they would have done had they not managed a response to Michael Beckmann’s stunning 50th-minute free-kick. And on their current form, they don’t have a hope in hell of getting two, let alone three. If they can’t beat Nordsjaelland, what chance do they realistically have against Chelsea or Shakhtar?
|MATCH FACTS | Nordsjaelland 1-1 Juve
Juventus now haven’t won a midweek fixture for six months, drawing every one of their four non-weekend games this season, proving that the fears over the lack of rotation within the squad since the start of the campaign were well-founded, and their insipidness against the Wild Tigers was the biggest blot yet on that particular copybook.
Antonio Conte has refused to breathe new energy into his dominant but lethargic midfield, leaving them all too often lacking the legs to carry out twice a week what they were able to do with regularity last term. Matchday coach Angelo Alessio also deserves reprimanding, with his inability to react quickly to the Old Lady’s suffering - resulting in substitutes Vucinic and Nicklas Bendtner having little time to make an impact.
There is culpability at boardroom level too. The lack of a centre forward signing in the summer window really shines out on nights like tonight. When a side is playing as badly as Juve were, they can often get away with it thanks to a couple of moments of opportunism from a top striker. But the Bianconeri don’t have that player. The board dillied and dallied, and results like this is what they get for it.
The players were far from their best. They should have been able to see off the Danish side, but they fell short. Sebastian Giovinco and Alessandro Matri again failed to make the expected impact. Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio were sluggish. The back three were too often carved apart.
On a night like tonight, nobody can hold their head high. Everyone has reason to be ashamed. Juventus now have a huge mountain to climb to make the last 16, and they have nobody to blame but themselves.