"To be or not to be?", the question raised by Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, in William Shakespeare's famous play, could not describe better the dilemma of Juventus as the Old Lady try to end a streak of nine consecutive draws in Europe when they host Danish champions FC Nordsjælland on Wednesday.
Juventus's bid for a 50th straight unbeaten match in Serie A was dashed on Saturday as they lost 3-1 at home against FC Internazionale Milano. However, they remain top with nine wins out of 11. The Bianconeri are still unbeaten in the UEFA Champions League Group E but are also winless and already facing a decisive juncture. Can the Italian champions contend for the European title as well? Now it is time to prove it.
The 1-1 draw at Nordsjælland a fortnight ago left Juventus four points behind FC Shakhtar Donetsk and one adrift of Chelsea FC in the section. "What's different compared to the league?" Gianluigi Buffon said. "This is a step up, what might be sufficient in Italy is not enough in Europe. There are no easy wins in the Champions League."
The approach to European games is probably the main difference as Juve always seem to need a shock to wake up. They are also slow starters in Serie A; in the first ten games of the season – before the defeat by Inter – they had earned 13 points more in second halves compared to first halves. In their domestic league they seem to play with the awareness that they are so dominant that sooner or later the game will turn their way.
In Europe, however, playing well for only one half is not enough to win games. When you receive a punch from a team like Chelsea, another can come quickly as happened in London when Juve managed to earn a point after the terrific one-two by Oscar in the first half. Otherwise you can find a team who play better than you, as happened in Turin against Shakhtar, or another who defend well such as Nordsjælland.
Another thing lacking is a striker who can score on regular basis, as witnessed in Denmark when Juventus missed many opportunities before Mirko Vučinić's late equailiser. "We created so many chances, at least 14 or 15, but we couldn't put the ball in the back of the net," said Angelo Alessio, standing in for Antonio Conte on Juve's bench. "Thankfully Mirko got the equaliser at the end, otherwise we might well have suffered a shock defeat."
Midfielder Arturo Vidal is Juventus's leading scorer with six goals in all competitions this season. Last term Alessandro Matri was the Bianconeri's leading marksmen with only ten league goals, 40 fewer than Lionel Messi for FC Barcelona in Spain for example.
Can Juventus midfielders continue to compensate the lack of a real goalscorer in attack? Can one of Sebastian Giovinco, Nicklas Bendtner, Fabio Quagliarella, Matri or Vučinić start to score on more regular basis? These are the questions.
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