FC Nordsjaelland vs. Juventus: 5 Things We Learned
Juventus really put themselves in a bad spot after their Champions League clash with FC Nordsjaelland on Tuesday.
Looking up at Group E's leaders after drawing both Chelsea and Shakhtar Donetsk, the bianconeri were hoping to prey on the group's Danish minnows for three much-needed points, but despite dominating the run of play, they needed a late equalizer to gain a share of the spoils.
It was more of the usual for the Turin giants, who should have won this game several times over, but instead wasted their offensive efforts by only putting nine of their 33 shots on goal.
What did we learn from this matchup? Here are five things to reflect on from the action in Denmark.
Juve's Forwards Aren't Cutting It
The lack of a top forward was the one glaring weakness of the Serie A champions coming into the season.
In the Serie A, the superior quality of the Juve midfield has been able to supply enough goals for their fantastic start, but in the Champions League, this deficiency has come back to haunt them.
Juventus controlled 57 percent of possession in this match and took a mind-boggling 33 shots. Only nine of those shots hit the target. Against a clearly inferior team, that kind of dominance has to be taken advantage of.
For an elite team, Juve's corps of strikers is beyond subpar. Fabio Quagliarella could still turn into leading scorer they need, but he must be given substantially more playing time to do so, even if it comes at the expense of the playing time of Mirko Vucinic and Sebastian Giovinco.
Those latter two are good complimentary forwards, but they haven't shown that they can be relied on to lead the line. Alessandro Matri showed a flash when he came over from Cagliari two seasons ago, and most fans hoped that he could turn into a top-of-the-line goal poacher in the mold of David Trezeguet, but time has shown that he has too many flaws in his game to do so.
Despite all of Juve's possession Tuesday, he was only able to shoot four times, and only put one of those shots on target before being hauled off for Vucinic.
In January, the bianconeri must augment their strike force. Fernando Llorente's falling out with Atletico Bilbao has now become complete, and if they want any return from him at all, they must sell him. The big Spaniard's preference is to go to Juve, and he his situation will make him available at a cut price for a player of his quality. If Juve is to have a chance at an elite level, they must have him.
Claudio Marchisio Is Turning into a Leader
Claudio Marchisio put in another good performance today, and is steadily turning into one of the world's best midfielders.
But a statement made before the match showed another growing side to Marchisio: he is steadily turning into one of the team's leaders.
Now the second vice captain behind Giorgio Chiellini, Marchisio may turn into a Juve lifer, and before the game he showed a little bit of his locker room presence, imploring his team forward and saying "the time has come to win."
As one of the team's longest tenured members, he's now seizing more responsibility as a leader on the team, which can only be a good thing moving forward.
Andrea Pirlo Can Still Keep Up with the Champions League
Tuesday was an encouraging sign for Andrea Pirlo. After two lackluster showings in Juve's first two matches in the competition, Pirlo made eight key passes against Nordsjaelland and completed eight of 10 long balls.
Granted, it was against significantly inferior competition, but it's clear that if Juve can get him the space, he can still be the dominant player that took Euro 2012 by the throat and should be seriously be a contender for this year's Ballon d'Or. For the Italians to advance, Pirlo needs to again take the Danes by the throat in the return game, and his performances against Shakhtar and Chelsea must be improvements over his first efforts.
Over the final three matches of the group stage, Juve needs to have this Pirlo on the field, otherwise they could find themselves playing on Thursdays come January.
Juve's Remaining Home Games Are Now Must-Wins
Juventus has yet to lose in their shining new soccer palace that stands where the Stadio delle Alpi once was. The Juventus Stadium is unique amongst Italian arenas. Not only is it the only stadium owned by the club that plays there, it's one of the few that puts the fans so close to the action. It's become a mighty fortress for the bianconeri, and it's going to have to be in the second half of the group stage for them to advance to the round of 16.
The bianconeri were lucky when the schedules were announced that they play two of the three later matches at home. Nordsjaelland and Chelsea will visit before the group stage is over, and if Juve is to go on, it absolutely must win the next two matches. Shakhtar's victory against the Blues have put them in the driver's seat in the group and this has made Chelsea vulnerable.
If Juve is able to defeat the Danes in their next match and Chelsea doesn't get three points against the Ukrainians, Juve would be ahead of the English side by at least a point. A win at home would then assure the Turin side of advancing.
Winning at home has always been important, but now it is vital. Dropping any points in their own stadium will severely hamper Juve's ability to get out of this group.
The Danes Can Play
The Danish champions may be the minnows of the group, but they are no slouches. They soaked up Juve's pressure and forced the vast majority of their shots off target.
Despite the scorelines of their previous two defeats, the Danes have not played badly in this tournament. Their match against Shakhtar was close until Henrikh Mkhitaryan's second goal late on, and the 4-0 scoreline against Chelsea is misleading—the match was in the balance at 1-0 until the Blues scored three times in the last eight minutes against Nordsjaelland's exhausted defenders.
The talent disparity is obvious, but the Danes do not give up, and if the group's three big guns let off at the wrong moment, they may be able to throw a serious monkey wrench into their plans for this tournament.
It might even be that they already have.