After Roma’s 7-1 drubbing at the hands of Bayern Munich was followed by the perhaps even more depressing 1-0 loss from Juventus at the hands of Olimpiacos, this past week in Champions League has given us a fair bit to think about from a Serie A perspective.
The Roma-Bayern game was perhaps more a microcosm of what makes the Bavarian side so good rather than what makes Rudi Garcia’s men terrible. While Il Lupi’s defensive effort had more holes than the walls surrounding the Coliseum, losing to a side made up of World Cup winners and a handful of the best players in Europe is no shameful result. The scoreline is excessive, but Bayern are one of the truly dominant sides in the world. Roma, on the other hand, are the second best side in a league where the best just lost to Olimpiacos.
The game itself between the German champions and the Roman side is one that would end 7-1 just once if you re-played it 10 times. Bayern would win probably eight or nine times, but the ease in which Pep Guardiola’s side separated themselves from their opponents was something quite rare. Roma are a side that did not look out of place competing with Manchester City, the English champions blessed with players similar to the quality of Bayern (although without the cutting cohesion). This was a unique result where a number of things all went one way, and that was the not the home side.
It was the night where Ashley Cole announced to the world why Chelsea were happy to let him go, and it also happened to be against Arjen Robben, whose ability to take advantage of ageing legs is legendary (re-watch that Spain game if you forgot). Like against Manchester United in 2007, the Giallorossi conceded early and heads dropped, morale shaken. Their ever-ruthless opponents smelt blood, a skill honed from years of dispatching defensive-minded minnows weekly in domestic competition. When Roberto Lewandowski’s header flew past an already apathetic Morgan De Sanctis, the result was inevitable. Volume was the only variable.
Meanwhile, a rather unsurprising thing happened to Juventus, sadly. Despite domestic dominance, the Bianconeri were a damp squib on the continent again, falling to Greek powerhouses (but otherwise average side in Europe) Olimpiacos.
It was the same old story: Juventus dominated possession (despite being unable to string a pass together in the first half), literally doubled their opponents shot count (18-9) but couldn’t score. Paul Pogba missed an opportunity that should’ve given Massimiliano Allegri’s side the lead, but it flew wide. Arturo Vidal returned, but wasn’t the game-changer he often is. Andrea Pirlo, orchestrator supreme, removed at the hour-mark without an encore. The Italian’s left Greece with just five of their 18 shots hitting the target. Disappointing doesn’t do justice.
This comes 10 months after the Galatasaray debacle ended Juventus’s 2013/14 Champions League experience prematurely when an inability to defeat FC Copenhagen cost the Italian champions. Sadly, Juventus are becoming as predictable in Europe as they are in Serie A, just polar opposite.
There was hope among Juventus fans that the appointment of former Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri would improve matters in Europe, the former Cagliari tactician boasting a slightly better run on the continent (getting out the group on consecutive occasions), but that appears not to be the case. Do Juve need to completely change their approach tactically? Do the players lose their heads when they leave Italy? Those questions are thus unanswered, and may continue to be so for a while. The hope is among Serie A fans that they are, this time, answered before it’s too late.