Kevin Pogorzelski Date: 13th September 2017 at 2:00pm
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Barely 146 days ago Juventus were hailing a second successive cleansheet against the notorious attacking might of Spanish giants Barcelona, but fast forward five months and the Bianconeri are doing anything but celebrating.

On Tuesday night in Catalonia, the Old Lady looked a shadow of the side that went so close to winning the 2017 Champions League and, although losing Leonardo Bonucci and Dani Alves – who both started the final in Cardiff – look further than ever from topping the European football pyramid.

Despite the significant loss of one of the most coveted centre-backs on the continent, this is still a group of players that have won six consecutive Serie A titles and become battle hardened to the rigours of top-level continental football.

However, at the Camp Nou an ageing Andres Iniesta mesmerised the Juventus defensive unit with a display that belied the doom mongers who say he is finished. At times, it resembled an first-team attack versus second-string defence training exercise.

The decision to replace Daniele Rugani with a man 13 years his senior, Andrea Barzagli, was a clear acknowledgement to the experience and unity the have lost in Bonucci, and Giorgio Chiellini’s, absence, but it failed miserably.

Defensive partner Medhi Benatia, who continually fails to reach the heights that saw Bayern Munich part with €26 million to prize him from Roma in 2014, is somehow deemed higher in the pecking order than the youngster, which only highlights the Bianconeri’s defensive shortcomings.

Although not wanting to extend the outdated stereotype of Italian sides ruling through defensive solidity and little else, it was a miserly attitude from a group of players that have spent the best part of a decade together, that allowed them to display the attacking verve that yielded a place at UEFA’s top table twice in three years.

The continued European progress after the departures of Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and, eventually, Paul Pogba after their defeat to the Catalans in 2015 demonstrated the importance those closer to the statesman-like Gianluigi Buffon have on the side.

Without that platform from which to build, the Juventus midfield did little more than become training cones for Barcelona to pass around, as they failed to retain possession for a notably prolonged period during the match.

This left the attacking trio of Douglas Costa, Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala to create the majority of their chances themselves, and somehow they came away registering more attempts on goal than their hosts!

As the dust settles on a disappointing night in Spain, a crumb of comfort for coach Massimiliano Allegri will be that, after a 3-2 thriller in Greece, Group D opponents Olympiakos and Sporting Lisbon look equally woeful in defence, thus Juve should still progress.

If they are to have any chance of challenging their opponents for silverware come May, though, they must resolve their defensive inadequacies before the turn of the year.