So, this is what losing feels like.
Juventus fans had forgotten. Apart from the loss in the final of the Coppa Italia to Napoli, the Bianconeri hadn't lost a meaningful game since May of last year, and Juve fans were too busy celebrating the Serie A title to care too much about the league cup.
The last two weeks had been very eventful for the Bianconeri. After a big win over Napoli, Juventus failed to beat FC Nordsjaelland in the UEFA Champions league, needed a late goal to get past Bologna and landed in the middle of yet another controversy after their win over Catania.
And then came the match against Inter Milan.
Inter were the better team, fair and square. They showed a lot of character and fought their way into a game that seemed like it was over after 10 minutes.
Juventus' incredible unbeaten streak ends at 49 games. Now what?
Goal.com ran an interesting story on how other teams fared after they saw their long unbeaten streaks snapped. I'm not one to underestimate the psychological impact of such an event on the players, but I don't think Juventus will look at these numbers and prepare for the worst.
They will have to look at the schedule, however. A must-win game against Nordsjaelland is followed by bouts with Pescara, Lazio, Chelsea, AC Milan, Torino and Shakhtar Donetsk. The lead in the Serie A and a successful European campaign will be in the balance these next few weeks.
After the loss to Inter, the Italian media seems to focus on the Bianconeri's lack of a true, world-class forward and their overreliance on the MVP midfield and Andrea Pirlo in particular. Despite a lead in the Serie A table and Champions league success well within grasp, doubt suddenly surrounds this Juventus team.
Against Nordsjaelland, Juventus will not just need the three points to keep up with Chelsea and Shakhtar. They'll need to prove that they belong.
Detractors are suddenly saying that the unbeaten streak was a fluke. Juventus got lucky these past few weeks, and were helped a great deal by poor officiating.
They're not that good.
Inter are as hot as it gets right now. Lazio and Milan smell blood. Torino love a good rivalry game and Chelsea and Shakhtar are confident they can beat the Bianconeri to secure a spot in the next round of the Champions League.
Above all, Juventus need a confidence boost right now. They need some of that momentum back before heading into the toughest stretch of games they've faced all season. They need to make a statement. A decisive win, to show everyone they're still the same team.
Pescara will provide La Vecchia Signora with that opportunity, but they can't wait that long. Nordsjaelland need to be the victim. A nationally televised game in Italy that will also be watched in England and Ukraine will provide the perfect stage for Juventus to play up to their potential
Vincere Non E Importante E L’Unica Cosa che Conta. Winning isn't important, it is everything.
That's the team's motto. But against Nordsjaelland, the team will need to do more than just win. To use a well known Internet meme: It's not about the three points, it's about sending a message.
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