Andrea Barzagli may be gunning for a fourth successive Scudetto with Juventus, but he doesn’t expect to lift the UEFA Champions League just yet.
The Bianconeri secured a third successive Serie A title under Antonio Conte last season, but they performed poorly in Europe having been dumped out of the Champions League at the group stage. This was a huge disappointment for the Italian giants, who were one of the favourites to do well in a tournament eventually won by Real Madrid.
This time round Juve, now under the leadership of former Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri, have been drawn in Group A alongside three other national champions: Spain’s Atletico Madrid, who made the final last term; Greek outfit Olympiakos, who beat Manchester United in the last-16 before crashing out in the second lag; and Malmo of Sweden.
Aside from the challenge of Atletico, the Bianconeri will be fairly satisfied with the draw, and will be expected to qualify as either group winners or runners-up. How far they go beyond that is another matter, of course, and according to 33-year-old defender Barzagli, he and his team-mates can’t be expected to compete with the European super-powers.
“Not getting out of the group last year represented a huge disappointment,” he told JTV. “Now we’re hoping to do better and at least get through to the next round. It will not be easy. The Champions League is tough and the gap between the top European clubs remains, given the investment that they have made. We’re not on the same level but we can follow the example of Atletico Madrid, who were a minute from being champions last season.”
Should Juventus win the Scudetto again this season, they will extend their record to 31 titles. But when it comes to European success, they are somewhat short considering the size and stature of their club. Only twice have they been crowned champions of Europe – in 1985 and 1996 – although they have also enjoyed success in the UEFA Cup three times (1977, 1990, and 1993), and they won the European Cup-Winners’ Cup in 1984.
Juventus fans, is Barzagli right? Is it too much to now expect your famous club to compete with the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona? Let us know what you think by joining in the discussion below!