Juventus, Claudio Ranieri Need To Wake Up Before the Scudetto Is Out of Reach
When the winter break ended, the Juventus faithful were fully expecting a Scudetto push that would see Inter Milan taken off their perch atop Italian football.
However, that hasn't been the case at all.
There have been chances to close the gap on Inter since the Serie A campaign started back up earlier this month, but the championship caliber of play just hasn't been there, most notably two weekends ago against Lazio and Wednesday against Udinese.
And despite all the injuries and who is or isn't at full match fitness, when you're within reach of first place in a league like Serie A, you can't afford to have an off week. This is especially true when the team in front of you is continuing to rack up points.
It's just hard to believe that, with the opportunity to keep the lead at three points and Scudetto hopes alive, that a team can come out as flat as Juve did against Udinese.
So after three weeks of less-than stellar performances, is it time to shake things up?
It should definitely be considered.
The players who have played almost every game this season are starting to show signs of fatigue. Hell, Ranieri hinted at it after Wednesday's game.
"We might have been tired because certain players have been playing ever since the start of the season. Now we are feeling the need of some fresh players," he said. "Hopefully the ones who recovered from injury can help the ones who played more to rest."
Pavel Nedved is the prime example of this. At 36, he obviously doesn't have the same kind of speed that he once had when he first arrived at Juve, but he has played almost every minute of every game he has been a part of this season.
Well, it's starting to show and something needs to be done to make sure that Czech Fury makes it through able to walk.
His impact has been minimal on offense because he doesn't have the legs to make runs like he did earlier in the season, or in years past.
If Ranieri wants to live up to his tinkering past, throwing either Paolo De Ceglie or Sebastian Giovinco, who have started 12 Serie A games combined, into the starting lineup will bring some freshness and speed into a squad that is struggling to score at the moment.
You will never know if they can follow in the footsteps of Nedved if they are never given the chance. And this is the perfect time to do so with him struggling and obviously fatigued from playing 90-plus minutes week in and week out.
Understandably, at the beginning of the season, Ranieri's hands were tied because of what seemed like half the team being injured in one way or another. However, those injuries are now slowing going away and the depth should be used to his advantage.
Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon returned this past weekend against Fiorentina and David Trezeguet and Vincenzo Iaquinta were back in the squad against Udinese — all three who have missed extended periods of time this season.
With Alessandro Del Piero and Amauri struggling to find the back of the net recently, only once in Serie A in January, Trezeguet and Iaquinta will be counted on to get things back to the way they were at the end of 2008.
Add Giorgio Chiellini and Mauro Camoranesi to the players coming off the injury list and there will be regular order in the starting squad and added confidence to the entire team.
But the schedule only gets busier from here on out, so having your older players rested going into the Champions League clash with Chelsea and the stretch run of the domestic campaign is as important as anything.
Three different competitions when you are expected to be serious contenders for each is all the more reason to keep players fresh. And logic seems to lean towards a player getting rest when they are tired, or a coach changing things up when things are tough.
Juve have been through one rough patch already this year and if they want to avoid another, something is going to happen soon or else it will another season with no hardware in Turin.
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