Juventus fell to a surprising 3-0 defeat in Bergamo to Atalanta in their Coppa Italia quarter-final on Wednesday evening, ending their hopes of winning the competition for a fifth consecutive season.
The Bergamaschi were good value for their win, and nobody could have predicted that such a big margin would split the sides, but it is hard to argue that Gian Piero Gasperini’s side weren’t deserving of their three-goal win.
Ahead of Wednesday, Juventus were unbeaten domestically and had not fallen at the feet of Italian opposition in their previous 29 games – a run which stretched back to April 22, 2018, when Kalidou Koulibaly’s header looked to have reopened the title race.
Since then, the Old Lady have been imperious in Italy and while they are still streets ahead of everyone else in Serie A over the course of a 38-game season, the defeat to La Dea shows that they are not unbeatable.
Massimiliano Allegri’s side are not perfect. Beyond Giorgio Chiellini, who himself faces time on the sidelines, they aren’t entirely assured at the heart of their defence. Even Leonardo Bonucci has been a weak point in their backline this season, while Joao Cancelo and Mattia De Sciglio took turns in showing that they have a momentary lapse of concentration in them at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia.
That Daniele Rugani isn’t at the required level to play regularly for an elite club is something that has been evident for some time now and despite the promise he showed when he emerged at Empoli, which prompted his signing at Juventus, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that he is even worthy of a backup role in Turin.
When Timothy Castagne capitalised on Cancelo’s absent-minded moment and charged towards Wojciech Szczesny’s goal, Rugani did less than nothing. He backed further and further away from the Belgian, who is not known for his quick feet, and allowed him to stroll to the edge of the box from where he curled beyond the Pole’s reach.
With Bonucci facing up to a month on the sidelines with an ankle injury and Medhi Benatia leaving for Al-Duhail, Rugani may see more minutes in the coming,
Atletico Madrid await in the knockout rounds of the Champions League, though they will be hopeful that the ex-AC Milan captain recovers in time, while they will fancy their chances to see off Parma, Sassuolo, Frosinone and Bologna in Serie A before facing Napoli at the beginning of March.
Miralem Pjanic’s importance has become all the more apparent this season and while Rodrigo Bentancur has taken huge strides forward as well, Juve would undoubtedly rather options who can offer more than Sami Khedira and Emre Can in reserve.
The World Cup-winning Khedira is a shadow of the player he was and Can slows things down too much with his ponderous and often lumbering nature, while Blaise Matuidi can blow hot and cold as well.
With Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic, Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi going forward, Juve will back themselves to outscore almost anyone in European football.
Any side that boasts Cristiano in their ranks is likely to compete until the very end in all competitions, but failure to win the Champions League would oddly see the Bianconeri suffer their most unsuccessful season in terms of trophies won in recent years in the first year of the Portuguese’s contract in Turin.
A double is still very much on the cards for Allegri’s side and it is eminently possible that their best is yet to come this season, but supporters who had shown slight concerns before taking on Atalanta will be all the more worried with Atleti and – they will hope – more big challenges beyond awaiting them.
Sirens aren’t quite sounding just yet, but there have been faint signs of warning lights flickering in recent weeks at the Allianz Stadium.