There remain plenty of questions about Maurizio Sarri at Juventus: if they lose against Lyon in the Champions League, could he be in trouble?
Like most things this year, the Champions League is going to be pretty weird.
The big tournament in Portugal starts next week, but before that there are some round of 16 ties to finish, with their second legs taking place some five months after the first.
Bayern Munich hold a 3-0 lead over Chelsea so that tie is basically over, but the other three are poised beautifully. Manchester City have a narrow 2-1 lead against Real Madrid, Napoli and Barcelona are level at 1-1 but the game that could have the most far-reaching consequences takes place in Turin.
“It has to be the Juventus-Lyon game, because there’s a lot riding on it,” said James Horncastle on The Totally Football Show. “There are still doubts about Maurizio Sarri at Juventus. While they go into the game match-fit – unlike Lyon, who looked a bit rusty in the Coupe de la Ligue final, which they lost on penalties – ultimately the pressure is on Juventus.
“They’re a goal behind in this tie, they’ve shown themselves unable to really defend convincingly so far this season, so the chances [are high] of Lyon getting an away goal which would make it even more difficult to overcome.”
Once more it feels odd to be discussing the potential dismissal of the coach who has just won Serie A, but it’s worth remembering that they did so only by a point in the end, plus there are the ongoing concerns that Sarri has still failed to do what he was essentially hired to – impose his style of play on the Juventus team.
James continued: “It’s an interesting prospect: as with so many of the top sides in Europe’s top five leagues, ultimately [the success of] seasons are decided by what the champions do in the Champions League.
“I think that while the club is putting out a very united front, [saying] “don’t underestimate how hard it is to win the Serie A title”, it was very interesting on Friday that Juve unveiled Andrea Pirlo as their new Under-23s manager. They had the president Andrea Agnelli alongside him, Fabio Paratici the chief football officer, Federico Cherubini the supervisor of the Under-23s, the chief of communications was there.
“When Sarri spoke an hour later, he wasn’t there on his own but there wasn’t the same presence. In Agnelli’s short address, he thanked the guys next to him, the nutritionist, the kit men, but it was remarked upon that he didn’t thank Sarri for winning the title. Maybe that’s because he thought he didn’t need to, because it had already been done, but it did feel quite telling.
“If he wins the tie and gets through, they’ll play either Real Madrid or Manchester City and you could say that’s difficult for anyone. But if they go out against Lyon…that’s going to raise more questions, on a mounting list of questions over this season for Sarri.”
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