After a year of arguing, excuses, and shame, Juventus finally have a mulligan on last year’s Champions League disaster. Former coach Antonio Conte has fled the Champions League for the allegedly greener pastures of the Italian national team’s bench, and Max Allegri has come to lead the Old Lady. Max will find himself in a manageable group for his first year in Europe with Juve, but it’s not one from which Juve automatically qualifies. Indeed, Conte could probably find a way to not advance out of this group, and it would probably feature several draws. That said, the other three teams – Atletico Madrid, Malmo, and Olympiakos – are all beatable sides for Juventus. It’s also true that Juve can lose to these teams, but they are the easy favorites for four of their six games, barring the two versus Atleti. Atleti deserve much respect in this competition, as Diego Simeone’s group of spare parts and castoffs – and Diego Costa – created magic last season en route to a last minute loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League Final. Along the way, Simeone and his brass balls willed the side to victories against some of the biggest teams in Europe.

Luckily, Juventus have a Champions League specialist at th helm to counter Simeone’s cult of personality. You may be wondering why I called Allegri a Champions League specialist. Well, look at what he did with increasingly poor A.C. Milan sides in Champions League: round of 16 exit (2011), quarter-final exit (2012, to Barcelona, Milan beat Arsenal in the Round of 16 4-3 on aggregate, those the first game was 4-0 and the second 3-0), round of 16 exit (2013, losing to Barca 4-0 in the second leg after an initial 2-0 victory) and finally in his last season he led Milan to the round of 16 before getting fired in January.

These are not spectacular results. In fact in some cases the final outcomes were rather disappointing given the expectations and especially given the first leg scores. However, the fact that he consistently got out of the group stage despite a consistent decline in the ability of his squads and the stability of his club suggests that Allegri is at the very least crafty when it comes to Champions League. Additionally, if you compare the first two years of Allegri’s Champions League tenure, it surpasses Juve’s current two year run in terms of results.

Furthermore Allegri now has the best side he has ever coached at his disposal. And yes, I am saying that this Juventus side is better than his initial Milan side. But enough about Max, let’s check out the rest of the group.

Atletico could be the favorites in the group but at the same time so could Juve. Given that Atleti have the same coach from last season, I would give them a slight edge. Regardless, it doesn’t seem like either side will clearly dominate the other during the two games. Juve took on Real Madrid last year, now they have a chance to fare better against the other team from Madrid. The fact that the second fixture is the final group stage fixture could also play a difference. If both sides are already qualified, we lose an exciting game but gain some mental health. If either or both sides need to qualify, we should see an exciting and stressful match on that final matchday.

The other two sides in the group are Olympiakos and Malmo FF. Both are reigning champions of their leagues, and we have seen Juve struggle against league champions of small leagues in recent years. Still, there’s no reason to suggest that these problems should persist. The fact is that clubs like these can always pose a problem to larger clubs, if the larger clubs don’t take them seriously. We start with Malmo, which should be a nice game to dip our toes into Champions League, but a win will be needed to solidfy our point count and to calm worries that are leftover from last season.

Mad Max will lead us to glory.