Juventus' stranglehold on Serie A in recent years has slipped, according to former Old Lady star Fabio Cannavaro.
The eight-time defending champions were pushed down to second in Serie A last weekend after their shock 2-1 loss to Hellas Verona:
After being the undisputed dominant force in Italian football for the best part of the last decade, Juve are now being challenged for the Scudetto by both Inter Milan and Lazio. Inter top Serie A on 54 points—the same total as Juve—while Lazio are just a point behind both in third.
Italy's 2006 FIFA World Cup-winning captain Cannavaro, who had two spells at Juve during his career and now manages Guangzhou Evergrande in the Chinese Super League, advised Old Lady manager Maurizio Sarri to find the right balance for the team in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t Football Italia):
"They are no longer as dominant as they were last season, but they are still top, though. ...
"I can only speak from the outside, as a spectator. The coach sees them every day and knows the condition and every detail. It tickles me to see [Paulo] Dybala play with Cristiano [Ronaldo] and [Gonzalo] Higuain. Maybe it sometimes happens—like in Naples—that things don't work out and the trident becomes a burden for the team.
"In addition to confirming himself, Ronaldo is devastating up front. But lately, he's the only one scoring. They need balance."
Ronaldo has indeed taken much of the goalscoring burden recently, setting a new club record by netting in 10 consecutive Serie A appearances:
In contrast, Higuain and Dybala have five league goals apiece and have not found the back of the net in any competition since both doing so in January 15's Coppa Italia victory over Udinese.
At 35, it is essential the Portuguese superstar is well-managed, especially given his remarkable record in the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League:
Juve spent £100 million to sign Ronaldo from Real Madrid in the summer of 2018 largely so he could help them win Europe's most iconic trophy once again. They have lost five finals since their last triumph in 1996, and their attempt to reclaim that crown continues on February 26 when they play the first leg of their last-16 tie against Lyon.
Chiellini expressed confidence Juve can overcome the Ligue 1 side, but he stressed the importance of having key players at their best toward the end of the season:
"They need to have their best players in the best condition possible when we arrive in April and May. The club has invested a lot for to win the Champions League and you need to be patient and improve you overall condition."
If they were running away with the league title, Juve could rest the five-time Ballon d'Or winner as often as possible in a bid to have him at his best for European matches.
Given how tight it is at the top of the Serie A table, that is not possible.
But Ronaldo cannot win both the Scudetto and the Champions League for Juve on his own, and he will need his team-mates to find their own top form in future weeks if the Old Lady are to remain in the running for both trophies.