Because most of the season featured Juventus’s case as the least impressive undefeated team in history, most expected the Old Lady to be dealt a loss by this point. On Sunday, however, Juve not only transcended their final remaining top-half hurdle, they did so with style.
Arturo Vidal, one of Europe’s most astute summer acquisitions, had the Old Lady up two within eight minutes on rival Roma. When Maarten Stekelenburg saw red (and Andrea Pirlo put home the rebound of the ensuing penalty kick), Juventus had guaranteed three points after less than a half hour’s work. A goal just after halftime from Claudio Marchisio (who drew the foul on Stekelenburg) gave Juventus a 4-0 victory, their biggest home win of the season.
After a February-March run that saw Juventus draw five of six (and give up the league lead), Juve’s won five in a row, outscoring their opponents 13-1. They’re now up three points in holders Milan, the 10-man Rossoneri needing a 90th minute goal from Zlatan Ibrahimovic to salvage a draw from visiting Bologna. The results were enough to have Milan coach Max Allegri conceding Juventus are now favorites.
Sitting three points clear, the Old Lady need only navigate a field of minnows to claim both a title and an undefeated season. The highest ranked team left on their schedule is 14th-placed Atalanta. The rest of their opponents: 16th, 18th, 19th, and 20th.
The odds of getting through May 13th are finally starting to turn in their failure. If you give them a 90 percent chance of at least drawing each remaining match, they’re likely to make it through their finale without a loss (56 percent probability). Any lower than that, however, and Juventus are still running uphill.
Elsewhere in Italy
Stuff that stuck out:
- Erik Lamela will miss three games after spitting in the face of Juventus defender Stephan Lichtsteiner on Sunday. The 20-year-old Argentine, bought from River Plate last summer, has three goals in 27 appearances during a contentious first season in Italy.
- For most, Genoa stole the headlines from Juventus on Sunday. Now sitting just above the drop, Genoa were dealt an embarrassing home loss, one which saw ultras jump on to the pitch and delay the match by half and hour as they demanded their players give up their shirts. Select fans have since received five match bans, Genoa will play their last two home games behind closed doors, and the club has fired coach Alberto Malesani (for the second time this year).
- Amid rumors that Italy national team coach Cesare Prandelli will join them this summer, Inter Milan has continued their matriculation toward Europe. While Sunday’s draw at Fiorentina could be seen as a missed opportunity, the Nerazzurri have pulled within one point of a European spot (provided Napoli stays in the top five). Even more reason for hope: Inter kept their first clean sheet under interim boss Andrea Stramaccioni.
- Napoli’s win over Novara snapped their three-game losing streak, a span which (according to star striker Edinson Cavani) had the club on the edge of crisis. Now the team that impressed so many in this year’s Champions League is only four points back of Serie A’s last UCL spot.
- The Cavani rumors, however, ignited last week when the Uruguayan refused to confirm he’d be with the club next season. Saying such things are club business, Cavani did little to quell rumors that he could move on this summer. One of the world’s best at his position, his sale would represent a huge payday for Napoli. Just a hunch, but Pep Guardiola could see him as a missing element for a Barça side in need of options.
Up next: Mid-week action starts on Tuesday with two games, the match of the round seeing Inter Milan visit Udinese for what both sides could see as a must-win.
Extra: Here’s video of the pitch invasion at the Luigi Ferraris. Nothing to see here. Genoa players approached the whole affair with the detached resignation of a team that could be beat at home 4-1 by a mid-table side.