Scary Old Lady
Paulo Dybala stole the headlines but, explains Adam Digby, Juventus’ comprehensive win over Barcelona belonged to the entire club.
It is often said that revenge is a dish best served cold, with the idea that the passage of time often catches a victim unprepared for the retaliation being delivered upon them. Well, on Tuesday night in Turin, Max Allegri and Juventus handed Barcelona retribution that had been chilling under the alps for almost two years.
Obviously a Champions League Quarter Final between two of Europe’s most prestigious clubs was already a high-pressure encounter and one which needed little fanfare, yet in the days before kick-off its significance was somehow being amplified. The Catalan giants – already trailing Real Madrid in La Liga –were looking to end Luis Enrique’s tenure with yet another major trophy, but from a Bianconeri perspective the tie had become the ultimate yardstick of their progress.
Everyone connected to the club, from players and Coach all the way up to President Andrea Agnelli and his cousin John Elkann, had made no secret that the time for success in Europe had arrived. Such statements are usually seen as counter-productive, the stress they place upon the collective shoulders of a team often too heavy to be carried and manifesting in sub-par performances once the action gets underway.
Yet the club would go further still, launching a social media campaign declaring “it’s time,” the likes of Paulo Dybala and Alex Sandro smearing black and white war-paint across their cheeks in a short video published and shared by the official website. Seemingly a way to express that the hour had arrived for the Old Lady to prove she belonged as a member of the small group of elite Champions League clubs, the same phrase was then boldly displayed in the choreography at Juventus Stadium as the competition’s famous anthem played.
A lesser team would’ve crumbled, its players unable to focus when going head-to-head with a side boasting the famous MSN attack of the Blaugrana. But this Juventus would not buckle, instead it seemed that the enormity of the occasion was exactly what they had been preparing for ever since they lost to Fiorentina back in January.
Those in Tuscany might not enjoy the thought that they inspired their bitter rivals to do so, but that match at the Stadio Artemio Franchi saw the Bianconeri completely out-played, the cautious approach Allegri had been taking throughout the first few months of the season laid to waste over 90 shocking minutes.
But while Viola supporters revelled in demolishing the reigning Serie A champions, the Juve boss made vital and perhaps overdue changes. Dropping the comfortable familiarity of the 3-5-2 framework, his 4-2-3-1 formation allowed more of Juve’s best figures to play together, pushed them to work harder for each other and saw the likes of Juan Cuadrado, Gonzalo Higuain and Dybala thrive.
Of course it will be the latter who is lauded, his two goals against Barça proving that talk of him as a future Ballon d’Or winner is not simply hyperbolic rhetoric, but this was a result and a performance that belonged to the entire club rather than just one man. It was a night that the Old Lady sent a message that will be heard across the continent as Juventus collectively showing that “it’s time” she was feared once again.