It might sound strange to suggest that the Serie A leaders should focus their attention away from domestic fixtures but there is more than one reason why Juventus should prioritise the Europa League during the run in to the end of the season. The Turin based side are coasting towards their thirtieth national title but why should they focus so intently on a Europe wide competition that is seen as a poor relation to the Champions League?
With nine games left in the regular league campaign, Juve had built up a 14 point gap over their nearest rivals Roma. The second placed club may have a match in hand but Antonio Conte’s side now need just 17 points to secure the title and that’s only if Roma can win all of their remaining ten games.
So Juve are champions elect, but while their fans will want to win the league in style, their club has an excellent chance of adding the Europa League to the trophy cabinet at the end of the season.
Europa League contenders
There are some dangerous teams left in the Europa League draw but Conte’s men are favourites to lift this title at odds of 6/5 with Betfair. Their closest challengers are Benfica who are unbeaten since November, but while the Portuguese league leaders are second favourites, Juve are widely acknowledged as the stronger side.
The squad is packed with quality and that’s underlined by the fact that Conte could afford to leave out top Spanish striker Fernando Llorente for part of this campaign. The 29-year old is now back as first choice partner for Argentinean Carlos Tevez who is averaging a goal every other game in Serie A.
Benfica looked dangerous against Spurs in the previous round but having let the Premiership club come back to force a 2-2 draw in Portugal, there are vulnerabilities that Juve’s potent strike force can exploit, assuming the two teams eventually meet. So Conte and his men have every chance of taking the trophy but in 2014, they have an even bigger incentive.
The final of this season’s Europa League is going to take place in Juventus’ own stadium and that gives the Turin club the rare opportunity of being able to lift a major trophy in front of their own fans. Conte is shrewd enough to know that a home triumph of this nature on the back of a Serie A title is going to lift his standing among supporters even further, as he aims to take his place among a list of managerial greats that includes Giovanni Trapattoni and Marcello Lippi.
As a football fan, there is no better feeling than going to your home ground and watching your team presented with a cup. Conte will be held in tremendous esteem if he can achieve that.
A path to greater glory
The immediate future carries the possibility of a Serie A and European trophy double but Juventus will also see this as great preparation for an assault on the Champions League next season. Far from being a poor piece of compensation, a Europa League victory would be seen as perfect preparation for this relatively new group of players.
The only disappointment this season has been that elimination from a Champions League group that admittedly included the strength of Real Madrid. Conte’s men were expected to come through in second place ahead of Galatasaray and Juve will hope to use the Europa League as a springboard towards revenge.