"It's almost as if we need a slap to wake us up," said Juventus coach Antonio Conte after his side won 3-2 against AC Milan in Turin last weekend despite going behind barely 20 seconds after kick-off.
Juventus are still undefeated this season and have won six of their seven Serie A games. However, conceding first is becoming a chronic problem which Conte is eager to cure. The Bianconeri have fallen behind in six of their last seven outings, including the UEFA Champions League assignments against FC København (a 1-1 draw) and Galatasaray AŞ (2-2).
"We are conceding with the first shot on target," said Conte. "There is some bad luck involved but it also comes from our own mistakes. We have been dealing with this situation for a while now." While the Bianconeri have fought back to win Serie A matches against the likes of AC Chievo Verona, Hellas Verona FC and Milan, they were forced to settle for a point against both FCK and Galatasaray.
Is the Old Lady less hungry for success after dominating the last two Italian campaigns? Conte and his players always react passionately when such suggestions are made; after all, Conte has never been a man to rest on his laurels. "We are continuing to concede from the first attempts by our opponents," bemoaned goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. "I think it's just a coincidence but there have also been a few defensive lapses. I think every one of us could have done better, myself included. I can understand some physical problems when you play twice a week, but the level of focus must always be high."
Striker Fabio Quagliarella, who rescued Juve with crucial goals against København and Galatasaray, added: "It is not a good sign that we keep losing the first goal. Our coach told us during the week that we cannot keep letting our opponents take the lead. It is something we definitely have to work on."
Conceding first could be lethal for the Bianconeri against a team like Real Madrid CF, who scored ten in their first two UEFA Champions League games. Juve qualified last term after opening the group stage with three straight draws, and Conte knows they face an uphill struggle ahead of the Group B double-header with Madrid. "The draw against Galatasaray made everything more complicated for us in the group, but it means we will play with a knife between our teeth in the next four matches," said Conte.
The opinions expressed here are the writer's own and not those of UEFA.
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