The new year is well and truly upon us, and with it, comes newfound hope that things will get better. Juventus will be hoping 2021 is their year after a rocky start to life under rookie boss Andrea Pirlo. The Italian champions stumbled out of the gates in the new season and currently trail Milan by seven points, albeit with a game in hand. With a 10th consecutive Scudetto on the line, Juventus desperately needs to kickstart a winning run. Both Milan-based clubs have run away with it until now, setting up an intriguing second half of the season.
Juve’s extra game is by no means a formality as it will see them square off against Napoli, in what promised to be an intriguing affair. Despite Napoli’s recent struggles, one would be foolish to write off Gennaro Gattuso’s men just yet. When Juventus and Napoli lock horns, form should be thrown out the window. Juventus will take solace in the fact that they have looked much better in 2021, winning eight of their nine first games.
While the disappointing defeat against Inter will leave a sour taste in their mouth, the Bianconeri have made tangible progress since the turn of the year. It may have taken Pirlo nearly 20 games to do so, but for the first time since assuming the reins, the World Cup winner has established his preferred midfield trio.
In many ways, games are won and lost in the middle of the park, something Pirlo is well aware of. The rookie boss has since deployed a double pivot of Arthur and Rodrigo Bentancur with Weston McKennie roaming dangerously ahead of them between the lines. The U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder offers grit and energy, while Arthur looks to dictate the tempo. Bentancur has since emerged as the perfect foil to both players, as he is equally adept at protecting the back three as he is at spreading the ball.
Juventus is coming off a comfortable victory over Sampdoria, with Federico Chiesa and Aaron Ramsey finding the back of the net – but they cannot afford to get too comfortable. February promises to be an action-packed month for the Italian champions, with Juventus taking on Roma and Napoli in quick succession in league action, while welcoming Inter in the Coppa Italia semifinals. If that was not enough, Juventus also has its two-legged encounter with Porto coming up in just under three weeks’ time.
Juventus bowed out of Europe’s elite competition in the Round of 16 last season and will be looking to avoid a similar fate at all costs. Porto may seem like a favorable draw on paper, but the Portuguese champions have been in red-hot form in recent months. With games against Roma, Inter, and Napoli preceding it, Pirlo will need to rotate his lineup – without missing a beat.
Much like it was the case in January, the upcoming month can come to define Pirlo’s tenure in Turin. The midfield maestro passed his first test of 2021 with flying colors, although the defeat to Inter leaves an asterisk on his record. With potentially title-defining games coming up, as well as both cup competitions, February is make-or-break for Pirlo.
Should he steer Juventus to the next round of the Champions League and lead them to the Coppa Italia final over Inter, it will be a hugely successful month for Juventus. However, he will have to do so without sacrificing the Scudetto. It won’t be easy, but Juventus have shown they might just be turning a corner with Pirlo at the helm.
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