By comfortably despatching Udinese 4-0 on Sunday, Juventus recorded their 10th consecutive league win, retaining second place in Serie A in the process. That in itself is a remarkable turnaround for the Bianconeri, who struggled in the early weeks of 2015/16 but are once again title contenders.
Recent poor results for AS Roma, Inter and Fiorentina have seen the Turin-based club leapfrog those sides, emerging as the closest rivals for winter champions Napoli. Indeed, the men from the Stadio San Paolo are just two points ahead of Juventus, who themselves are a further two points ahead of third place.
However, both the players and their coach insist there is much more to come from the Old Lady, as Sami Khedira explained Sky Sport Italia (via the club’s official website) shortly after the final whistle had blown on their victory over Udinese:
We are playing very well, we are in great form but we still haven’t achieved anything, we mustn’t let up. We have to make sure that we keep this run going. It’s a long season and we are only in second place at the midway point of the season.
The former Real Madrid man has been at the heart of Juve’s return to prominence, his goal on Sunday meaning he has now netted three times this term, also weighing in with two assists and becoming a vital member of the side.
Tactically intelligent and constantly organising those around him, the match with Udinese saw Khedira once again underline his importance. According to statistics on WhoScored.com, the 28-year-old ended the clash having won one aerial duel, one tackle and one clearance while completing 90.3 per cent of his 62 pass attempts.
His impact was discussed in a previous post, and when asked about Juve’s form at his post-match press conference, boss Massimiliano Allegri admitted to reporters the Germany international is one of the chief protagonists in his squad.
“I was without [Claudio] Marchisio and Khedira, [Mario] Mandzukic had injury problems during the first two months and the rest of the players were not playing at the level they are right now,” the coach said.
“After last term’s efforts, there was always a risk of needing some time to reach peak condition for the current campaign,” Allegri continued. It seems his squad has achieved that at just the right time.
The match in Udine also saw a number of fringe players earn playing time, with Kwadwo Asamoah and Daniele Rugani starting the game while Martin Caceres replaced Giorgio Chiellini in the second half.
That depth is something their rivals appear to lack at present and could well become an important factor as the season progresses. Indeed, Allegri was even able to rest Paul Pogba here, giving the French midfielder a much-needed break before a run of important fixtures begins in the coming weeks.
Between now and the end of February, the Bianconeri face AS Roma, Lazio, Napoli and Inter, also returning to Champions League action against Bayern Munich on Feb. 23. Those games will not only present a stern test but will see just how likely Juventus are to match the glory they achieved last year.
Successfully defending both the league title and the Coppa Italia will be difficult, but with the injury problems easing and the squad returning to full health, the grand Old Lady of Italian football has many more men to choose from.
Allegri has proved capable of regularly getting such personnel decisions right and has the ability and experience to balance his choices in three competitions that will be essential to their chances of success.