Though the final was largely passed over amidst the malaise of a non-Champions League Tuesday, Juventus obtained what could prove a landmark result. No, that landmark was not qualifying for the Coppa Italia final, though eliminating Milan is laudable. With a Mirko Vucinic’s extra time goal, Juventus saw off the league leaders and defending champions, even if they found themselves down after full time for the first time this season.
The significance of Tuesday’s non-loss is in Juventus’s remaining schedule, one that’s now completely Milan-free. For a Juve side that’s thus far navigated their season without a loss, Tuesday may be seen as a summit – the crest of something remarkable. Seeing the backs of the Rossoneri (generally thought to be the best team in Italy) gives supporters reason to think an undefeated season’s truly possible.
There are a couple of qualms to be had with that thought, though, the first being somewhat pro-Juve. While there’s plenty to recommend Milan as Calcio’s best, Juventus has drawn twice, won twice in their four meetings with the leaders. The Old Lady may not be managing the league as well as the reigning champions, but they’re getting the better results from their head-to-head matches. No, head-to-head results aren’t a be-all, end-all, but a blind nod to the primacy of the league standings ignores Juve may actually be the better team.
Allow me to indulge a Posnanski, but I hate the three-point win.
The arguments for it are based entirely on aesthetics (teams should play to win), not fairness. A three-point win makes the goal that puts you up 2-1 worth twice as much, in terms of points, as a goal that leads to a 1-1 draw. True, not every goal should have the same weight (the fifth in a 5-0 romp may as well not exist), I can’t get on board with the disproportionality of it all. It’s not like a winner is so much more difficult to score than an equalizer.
Juventus and Milan would be even on points were we using two-point wins, but Juve deserves no credit for failing to adapt to the rules. Milan rightfully sits first; however, when we’re judging which team’s better, don’t put too much weight on the three-point win.
But even if Juventus is the best team in Italy, there’s still the problem of their run-in. Milan’s not on the list, but if they were, it would be a unbelievably hellish home stretch:
Opponent, with date and current Serie A rank …
- Inter Milan (Mar. 25) … 7th
- Napoli (Apr. 1) … 4th
- at Palermo (Apr. 7) …10th
- Lazio (Apr. 11) … 3rd
- Roma (Apr. 22) … 6th
- Coppa Italia final … May 20
Silver lining: Juventus has no European obligations, their cup commitments don’t resurface until after the season, and they don’t play a significant road game (save their trip to a dangerous if vulnerable Palermo).
But there’s something more fundamentally troubling when assessing Juve’s chances to go undefeated. They have been drawn 15 times. Fifteen times this season, it could be argued, they were just as likely to score as be scored upon. How long can that continue without a loss (Monte Carlo, anyone)? Statistically, Juve’s probably already outlying (not remarkable seasons aren’t always outliers).
Even if it does continue, there’s the chance Juve will be undefeated an be without trophies come May 21. They could go through league season without a loss and still finish behind Milan. They could also lose on kicks in the Coppa final.
What would you rather have: an undefeated season? Or a trophy?
Without silverware, their success against Milan’s likely to be forgotten.