Juventus Struggles with Losses to Lecce, Bologna: Clash with Milan Lingers Ahead

David TenenbaumContributor IMarch 1, 2011

TURIN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 26:  Alessandro Matri (R) of Juventus FC shields the ball from Daniele Portanova of Bologna FC during the Serie A match between Juventus FC and Bologna FC at Olimpico Stadium on February 26, 2011 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Thierry Henry is my friend.

No, really, I met him on Sunday night. He was at the Knicks-Heat game in Miami (as was I), and though I saw many other celebrities, I specifically noticed him.

He walked past my seat right after halftime (although I later realized that I had seen him earlier, but I hadn't recognized him at the time) and when I saw him, I shouted "Yo Henry, you're the man!" and he acknowledged me.

Pretty cool, but I wanted more. I spotted him later and saw that he was in my row (although on a different side of the court) and decided I should try to get a picture.

After the game, he started to walk towards the exit closest to me, so I walked over to him with a friend and got a picture with him. I also got to wish him luck this season in the MLS (big Red Bulls fan here), and I feel confident that the Red Bulls should do pretty well this season.

What's the purpose of this story?

There is no purpose. In no way does it relate to Juventus (although Henry did play for Juve back in 1999 for half of a season—he played on the left wing, out of position, and was largely ineffective, leading to him being sold to Arsenal that summer), I just figured my column would be a good place to brag about meeting Thierry Henry.

Getting back on topic though, Juventus have been very lame in their past two games. First, they lost to Lecce 2-0, with Buffon getting a red card early on.

Buffon is not to blame for the loss though. The entire team was miserable, they did a total 180 from the previous game against Inter.

The defense, midfield, wingers and the attacking corps all disappointed. Lecce, a team that lies in the bottom half of the table and that, on paper, stands no chance against Juventus, totally outclassed the Bianconeri.

The all-around performance was bad, and one could tell from the start of the game that Lecce were out there to win. What reasons the Juve players had for being out there are still unknown.

Even Giorgio Chiellini, the star of the Juventus defense (and for my money, one of the best center backs in the world) and the successor to Del Piero as captain, made a mistake. He slipped up while covering a Lecce attack and enabled them to score.

But, the blow from the loss to Lecce was softened by Palermo losing as well. Palermo's loss meant that Juventus didn't really lose ground in their chase for a spot in (any) European competition.

After the Lecce loss, the team took some heat, as the players simply did not show up. There were some newsworthy quotes from players, specifically Marchisio, so I assumed the players really were ready to go out on Saturday against Bologna and make up for the Lecce game.

Sadly, on Saturday Juventus lost again. While they weren't as lackluster as they were against Lecce, they still failed to put up a good fight and found themselves at the wrong end of a 2-0 score.

Delneri, who in recent weeks has tested some changes with his trusted 4-4-2 after receiving some criticism that he was too "bland," is partially at fault for not sticking with the 4-4-2. While his reluctance to make changes in the formation has hurt Juve in the past, on Saturday it was his tampering with the formation that hurt Juve.

Due to Aquilani being injured, Delneri switched the formation around (moving Marchisio to center mid from the mezza'la role where he has been so successful) and the lack of strength in the midfield spread throughout the team.

Juventus had some chances to score, with a Iaquinta effort just hitting the crossbar, but they failed to capitalize. Later in the game, off of a corner kick, Bonucci made contact right in front of the goal, but he struggled to get a shot off and the opportunity was wasted.

While the midfield and attacking effort was unpleasant, the defense was painful to watch.

One of the goals (both of which were scored by ex-Juve man Marco Di Vaio) came off of a failed offside trap (following a shared error between Melo and Marchisio and midfield.) That one collective slip-up dutifully symbolizes the mistakes that were constantly being made by the Juve players.

While Juventus are still in seventh place (and thus would qualify for the Europa League playoffs if the season ended now) they have a very, very tough game against league leaders A.C. Milan this weekend.

Milan are fresh off of a 3-0 thumping of second place Napoli, so pretty much their form is the opposite of Juve's. I have faith in Juventus, as this season's incarnation has shown an ability to play well against the big teams just after disappointing against a small team, but this game will be tough for both teams.

Hopefully Juventus can find some of the magic they had two weeks ago against Inter. They will need that magic if they want to beat A.C.


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