In stark contrast to a determined Juventus performance last Saturday in which they outplayed and outthought a defensively inept Milan side, the Bianconeri played out a dull draw at home against Salzburg in the Europa League. Their failure to snatch all three points coupled with the fact that Lech Poznan managed to slip three past Manchester City means the Old Lady’s hopes of progressing are hanging by a thread.
Despite the injuries, Luigi Del Neri assured fans and critics that Juventus would be playing for a win. However, the match indicated otherwise as the uninterested squad relied on their defence to stifle the Austrians whilst the attack was afforded little help. Unfortunately for Miloš Krasić, he seemed a shadow of the player the Juve tifosi have come to worship in recent months and limped off with an injury to add to Juve’s current woes. Meanwhile, the depleted attack lacked the cohesiveness and bite required to edge past the solid Salzburg defence even though all the youngsters put in a solid performance.
This really was a game Juventus should have won, especially considering how much of a miserable season the away side have experienced thus far. They lie only in fifth place in the Austrian league and six points adrift of league leaders Sturm Graz, a club that Juventus beat earlier in the competition. However, what they do boast is a solid defence and have only conceded nine goals this season making them the most difficult team in the Austrian league to net against. As such, you can only imagine what sort of match was played out as each team worked to keep the other at bay whilst both attacks suffered in penetrating the erected brick walls of defence.
Nonetheless, it was the away side that carved out the better chances of the night only for them to lack the clinical edge required to finish them off and claim all three points. They were the more determined team as they started the match at full speed, pressing the Bianconeri, playing at high intensity and imposing their speed. Meanwhile, Juventus looked shell shocked for the first quarter of the game and simply could not hold on to possession or keep up with the Austrian players determined to control the match. The Primavera player, Manuel Giandonato, was allowed a rare start due to the high number of injuries suffered and Claudio Marchisio was moved to the left to help out the make-shift full-back, Simone Pepe. With Marchisio offering the defence as much help as needed and Momo Sissoko losing possession almost as soon as he won it back, the ball was simply never kept long enough in midfield to initiate a properly well thought out attack in the first half. However, Giandonato put in a tidy performance in the centre and kept things crisp and clean. He even managed to show off his burgeoning talent by delivering a long pass to unleash Krasić at the top right only for the Serbian to be called offside – a decision many did not agree with as the video replays suggest the winger was level when he received the ball.
However, barring a few moments of ingenuity, the Juve forwards seemed dreary. Furthermore, with Amauri just back from injury and largely in the shadow of things, the midfield could only rely on an uninspired Krasić and an old Alessandro Del Piero who was constantly outrun by the Salzburg defenders. In order to allow the attack a little more help, Del Neri sacrificed Giandonato, pushed Pepe a little further forward and back into his proper position on the right wing and introduced Matteo Liviero in the left-back position. Almost immediately, Pepe began to exercise his attacking skills and Juventus went on the counter with clever passes and perfectly timed runs. It was perhaps one of their few good moves of the night that unfortunately resulted in nothing. After that, it seemed the Old Lady was comfortable with a draw and hardly put together threatening plays towards the latter part of the match. Marcel Buchel was introduced on the left wing and Nicholas Giannetti came on to replace Krasić and Pepe respectively and both put in a good performance, especially the latter who kept the tempo up and piled on the pressure. However, it was simply not enough.
With that kind of performance, it seems hardly surprising that the Bianconeri were booed off the pitch by their fans who were expecting a valiant effort considering the performance they witnessed on the weekend. Many were also hoping to see Filippo Boniperti and Alberto Libertazzi offered a chance to showcase their skills but the ones who were chosen did not disappoint. Despite what the Italian Coaches continue to preach, it seems no-one really takes this competition very seriously in the peninsula and until they do, one cannot expect very much from this Juve side so heavily focused on Serie A.