The last chance to have some success this season went up in flames in Sevilla, and Juventus are headed for the second trophyless campaign in a row, a true rarity. There’s not any grand takeaway from the recent clash, which was decently played by the Bianconeri in a harsh environment. It’s a matter of inches and small details at this point in the competition. The Nervionenses exploited their chances, some out of the blue, while the Old Lady didn’t, even though they had a few good ones throughout the 120 minutes. The minuscule silver lining is that at least it didn’t happen in the final against Roma, as the sneers would have reached an unbearable level.

The intensity was there, and the strategy is what it is and changes only in very select games against weak opponents. The biggest shame was the lead evaporating in a jiff without the opportunity to manage it or exploit the counter-attacking game. However, the regrets come more from the first leg, where an overly cautious approach led to a lackluster effort. Things could have gone differently with a fierier posture, and playing at home has never been a factor this season, neither in Europe nor domestically. It’s easy to impose your will against Cremonese or Sampdoria, but the team barely even tries to be assertive against more challenging opponents, and that comes from the coach.

It feels like that team always has to combat a ton of baggage stemming from the club’s previous failures in Europe, which is real but unfair. It’ll take a trophy to amend that, but it’s unclear when the club will have its next real shot, considering the upcoming point deduction and a possible UEFA ban, which makes the elimination more hurtful. Lifting the cup this year would have lessened the sting, but instead, the legacy of the season will inevitably be the legal troubles and the whole plusvalenze affair. It’s probably historically correct given their magnitude, but still a bummer. It’ll be arduous to keep the focus on this game since the next penalty could come a few hours before kickoff. We’ll see how much it will amount to, but Atalanta, Lazio, and Milan all winning reduces the chances of competing for the top four anyway. And another one could be coming, although the trial is about to start and could ultimately affect 2023/2024.

Very few coaches would survive two years like this, but the future of Massimiliano Allegri doesn’t seem too much in jeopardy. His hefty contract would be a problem in case of a split, but that’s not a good enough reason to keep a coach. The brass probably believes there’s too much going on for diving into the unknown that is a coaching change, which is true no matter who the successor could be, even if he looks like a slam dunk beforehand. It is somewhat understandable, but this sense of comfort comes at the expense of the product of the pitch. The dissonance between the style of a ‘win-now’ manager that stewards things with no room for flair and a squad that is largely new and not largely inexperienced and could use a more modern teacher and tactician is evident. But only problems in the locker room or the new director coming in guns blazing, which is unlikely, might lead to the current boss’ demise, but hints in that direction are scarce.

It’s slim pickings as far as the formation is concerned considering all the injuries and suspension, but the finish line is nigh, and there are no more midweek bouts left. Wojciech Szczesny, Adrien Rabiot, and Angel Di Maria are rumored to get a breather.

Probable Lineup

3-5-2: Perin; Gatti, Bremer, Alex Sandro; Barbieri, Locatelli, Paredes, Miretti, Kostic; Kean, Milik. 

Absences: Cuadrado, Danilo (suspension), Pogba, Bonucci (thigh strains), Fagioli (collarbone fracture), De Sciglio (ACL tear), Soulé (U-20 World Cup), Kaio Jorge (patellar tendon tear). 

Empoli did almost the same thing as Lecce, squandering a large cushion over the relegation zone because they took their foot off the gas after sprinting, but they reversed that quickly enough to avoid a tense finish, set the stage with the home victories over Bologna and Salernitana and did just enough to mathematically clinch their Serie A permanence for another campaign by drawing with Sampdoria. It was coming regardless, but the sooner, the better.

President Fabrizio Corsi won his bet with Paolo Zanetti, as he took a risk dismissing Aurelio Andreazzoli, who had a solid spell, and appointing somebody promising but whose style ultimately didn’t save Venezia last season. They rarely miss with coaches and have been a hotbed for talent in the dugout in recent years since their higher-ups are very competent and even-keeled. Unless there are several changes in the second-tier sides, they should be able to retain him and build on this year.

It was a perfect match because, on top of his modern strategy, he’s not shy in trusting youngsters, and they happen to have a fruitful youth academy. He started fielding Tommaso Baldanzi regularly when a top contributor like Nedim Bajrami was still in town, and it paid big dividends since he has carried them creatively for months, even though he stopped scoring after a quick start. His frantic movements and sharp passes and shots have been the main feature of their offense. Sealing the deal before leaving for the U20 World Cup was a nice touch, and they’ll miss him in the last few games. He’s headed for a fascinating summer, as he could use another year of seasoning, especially from a physical perspective, away from the spotlight, but his talent is tantalizing and will entice a few clubs, and his price tag isn’t excessive.

The manager also gets the credit for being open to altering his XI and scheme without sticking with the same ones, which is a common flaw. They have had constant changes in several positions, and he has been capable in figuring out which player was more in shape and which combination worked better. They have always had a veteran striker in the lineup, Mattia Destro in the first half, then they signed Francesco Caputo in January since the former got hurt. The duo hasn’t produced in spades, but their presence gives them a reference point and precious leadership. Martin Satriano partnered with them for a large chunk of the schedule, then it was Roberto Piccoli’s time, and finally Nicolò Cambiaghi, the most productive of the trio but also the most fragile, took over the starting job in recent games. He often creates havoc with his bursting runs. He’s on loan from Atalanta and would fit nicely under Gian Piero Gasperini, as he can play in a couple of positions and has the skills to be an ideal super-sub.

The same thing happened in the back among Ardian Ismajli, Koni De Winter, and Sebastian Walukiewicz and in the midfield, where Alberto Grassi, Jean-Daniel Akpa-Akpro, Jacopo Fazzini, Filippo Bandinelli, and their other box-to-box rotated. Their MO has been to have some linchpins, Sebastiano Luperto and Fabiano Parisi in the rearguard, Razvan Marin and Baldanzi, and then Caputo, and open competition for the other positions. It has kept everybody engaged and on their toes, improving their displays. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have an elite goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario, and they might not need to look far when he is inevitably poached, as Samuele Perisan has been more than serviceable in relief. Left-back Parisi has been a stud for a couple of years now, and they completed their design by using Tyronne Ebuehi more than Petar Stojanovic. He’s faster and a bigger threat than his teammate, so they get a ton of offense and crosses from each flank now.

They recently found something switching from 4-3-1-2 to 4-2-3-1 with Grassi and Marin in front of the defense, which formed a stout and complete pair since they are both hybrids, not really registi but also not particularly dynamic. But the latter just got hurt, and their other midfield options are better suited to a diamond formation better. The manager announced they will continue with that, so somebody will have to adapt. Marko Pjaca is first in line to replace Baldanzi, and he’s comfortable on the flank, but they can also choose a more muscular player like Jean-Daniel Akpa Akpro.

Probable Lineup

4-2-3-1: Vicario; Ebuehi, Ismajli, Luperto, Parisi; Grassi, Bandinelli; Akpa-Akpro, Fazzini, Cambiaghi; Caputo. 

Absences: Baldanzi, Degli Innocenti (U-20 World Cup), Marin (calf strain), De Winter (meniscus tear),