Getting the points back was positive in the short term, but there are very solid chances that the judicial victory, if it can even be called that, will turn out to be hollow. The executives have been convicted, so the hefty charges held up, and more are coming. If anything, the appeal restored normalcy and clarity, as the sanction should have arrived at the end of the season in the first place, without marring a significant chunk of it, for Juventus and the other teams involved in the various European races. In all likelihood, the deduction will be tailored to the final position and be just enough to cost the Bianconeri the Champions League qualification or more. Still, it won’t be known until a month or so, so the next few domestic games can be approached more in a more standard fashion.

Given the new scenario, the loss to Sassuolo looks particularly damning. The quality of the team’s displays has taken a nosedive amid a very dense schedule. Considering the routine struggles against top sides, the Old Lady should avoid dropping points and coming out flat against minnows at all costs. All the distractions and fatigue make it challenging, but that’s why the gaffer and the players are paid the big bucks. The roster is decently deep, but the true difference-makers are just a handful. It shows when they aren’t present or don’t have it that day.

Federico Chiesa is looking sprier but is not there yet. His franticness to make the difference sometimes gets in the way. He has to channel his energy into a few select plays as Angel Di Maria does. Paul Pogba is miles away from being a real contributor. Given his manifest lack of conditioning, it’s almost a disservice to him and the team to sub him in when results still hang in the balance. The whole attack is in a slump, partly due to the strikers’ own problems and more predominately because of an asphyxial supply line. The center-forwards and the wingers have no chemistry whatsoever. That can be fixed only through playing together, and each battling their own physical problems has prevented that so far. Things should start to improve now, but they commence from a very low point.

Juventus did just enough to squeak by Sporting CP, which seems to be the mantra of most of their wins. The combination of lackluster tactics and game plan, scarce liveliness, and looking ahead at the next fixtures all too often combine for ugly showings. But it’d take a new coach and at least three or four more top players to amend that. Going far on multiple fronts is a blessing and curse, and hopefully the Old Lady will come away with a trophy so it won’t be all for naught. Yet, Inter have proven to be better in the cups, and, while Sevilla shouldn’t be overlooked, a potential Europa League final against Roma, José Mourinho, and Paulo Dybala already sounds like a nightmare scenario karma-wise and due to the Bianconeri’s troubled history in this spot and the opponents’ prowess at the continental stage.

Gleison Bremer is banged up, and his absence would be particularly devastating considering the match-up and the fact that Leonardo Bonucci hasn’t played a full game in ages and Daniele Rugani notoriously struggles against uber-physical opponents, but there’s some optimism the Brazilian will manage to start. Nicolò Fagioli and Filip Kostic rested a bit midweek and should be back in the XI. Even though the Coppa Italia clash with Inter is arguably more meaningful, the rotation might be limited to Angel Di Maria and Chiesa due to their well-known physical deficiencies.

Probable Lineup

3-5-2: Szczesny; Danilo, Bremer, Alex Sandro; Cuadrado, Fagioli, Locatelli, Rabiot, Kostic; Milik, Vlahovic. 

Absences: Kean (thigh injury), Kaio Jorge (patellar tendon tear). 

Napoli experienced first-hand that domestic domination doesn’t necessarily translate to European success at the highest level, which is something all too familiar to Juventus. In the grand scheme of things, it’s natural considering they overhauled the team last summer, a few linchpins have been in town for just a few months. They are only at the start of a multi-year journey, so taking home the Scudetto, which they haven’t done in 33 years, is more than enough to make their season satisfactory.

On the other hand, they must be kicking themselves because this was a golden opportunity to make the final, and then you never know what happens in a single-elimination game. Even though any Serie A representative would have been the underdog in Istanbul, they had the best shot of measuring up with either Real Madrid or Manchester City if they were at their peak.

However, the wrong match-up, as Milan have been their kryptonite, ill-timed absences, tiredness, and some bounces not going your way constitute all it takes to bow out against an inferior opponent, given the cruel nature of Champions League. They’ll have to live with the regret, but they’ll have more chances in the future unless they sell Victor Osimhen.

Even though the Rossoneri contained him reasonably well, things would have gone differently had he been present for the first leg, but that’s neither here nor there at this point. They had to be aggressive considering the disadvantage, but, in the end, their over-eagerness and some naivete did them in the recent clash, as it’s deadly to give Milan room to counter. Still, they could have been successful anyway if it wasn’t for Mike Maignan’s heroics.

They have looked spent and slightly unfocused in recent matches. It’s inevitable after they have been playing at an elite level for months and months. They rotated more than usual lately but had refrained from doing that for most of the season, which took a toll at the most inopportune time in hindsight. They’ll have to improve their backups, numerically and quality-wise, to juggle multiple competitions better. Getting eliminated by Cremonese in Coppa Italia was a black eye as the treble was seriously on the table for them.

The Rossoneri provided a blueprint on how to beat them, which doesn’t take reinventing the wheel, but it’s mighty hard to pull off since you need both an incredible defense and goalkeeper and a devastating man on counters. Juventus tried the cautious approach in the first encounter, which is the MO in any difficult tilt, but the rearguard held up for just a few minutes, and they were saddled with a historically large defeat that took a while to get over.

It’ll be paramount to match their level of energy and aggression. While both sides are banged up, the Partenopei are arguably in a better spot, having played two days earlier and without another pivotal fixture coming up in short order. Handling the grind has been a problem for Juventus, which have occasionally faltered under pressure. Moreover, the Azzurri have an eye on the prize as they need just a few more wins to seal the title. Getting significantly closer by topping their archnemesis is easily more stimulating than whatever is going on for the Old Lady.

Tuesday’s clash left some wounds as they lost Mario Rui and Matteo Politano for a while. It’s unfortunate but, with just Serie A on the docket, it’s not a massive deal since they have adequate alternatives in their roles. Mathias Olivera was already often getting the nod in crunch matches because he’s more offensive-minded, while there isn’t a clear starter between the Italian winger and Hirving Lozano. Giacomo Raspadori doesn’t play on that flank, but his return gives them an extra offensive weapon to toy with.

Their game plan has been the same all year long. It malfunctioned only when they met a backline that could keep them in check and attackers that were great in space versus Inter, Lazio, and Milan. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia is catching a lot of flak for the missed PK, but he’s always the one to lead the dances, and ball-hogging comes with the role. His success rate on difficult plays is still remarkable, even though he hasn’t scored or assisted in a while given the superb standards he set.

If anything, their lack of secondary playmakers was exposed in the quarter-finals. Osimhen is fantastic, but he needs feeds to do his job and doesn’t have the opportunity to play with room in cagey bouts, so the passes in his direction must be surgical. Piotr Zielinski and whoever completes the trident should make their presences felt a little more when the adversaries key in on their top men, but that hasn’t always been the case. Their fullbacks often better take advantage of their freedom, and Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Rui have had a strong campaign on offense, but they don’t have the same technique and creativity of an attacker. On the other hand, bottling up Kvara and Osimhen is easier said than done, and most outfits tend to leave other contributors wide open, and they have made hay on aplenty.

Probable Lineup

4-3-3: Meret; Di Lorenzo, Kim, Jesus, Olivera; Anguissa, Lobotka, Zielinski; Lozano, Osimhen, Kvaratskhelia. 

Absences: Rui (fibular head infraction), Politano (ankle sprain), Simeone (thigh strain).