There has long been ill-feeling in the Derby d’Italia but last night’s victory in Turin was made all the sweeter for Juventus due to their opponents Inter benefitting from the Calciopoli scandal in the mid-2000s. Then the Old Lady was stripped of two consecutive Serie A titles for alleged match-rigging with Inter being awarded the latter. It means that – officially at least – the record books state that Juve have not won the league for just shy of a decade so taking all the points in a fierce clash that now takes them to within just four points of current leaders Milan was rightful cause for celebration in the sumptuous new Juventus Stadium. Second half goals from Caceres and the ageless stager Del Piero – the first due to uncharacteristically poor marking from Ranieri’s men – places Juve hard on the heels on the Milanese artisans with redemption for the titles that locals perceive to have been ‘stolen’ from them now a distinct possibility.
It also increased i bianconeri’s unbeaten campaign to 29 games and with just nine fixtures remaining the talk is now centring on an invincible season in the making.
With Milan remaining resolute at the top however – a victory from behind against Roma at the weekend was further proof of their Scudetto mettle – there is another possibility however and it is one that is too awful for Juve fans to countenance: could they become the first ever side in football history to go through an entire season undefeated yet still miss out on honours? Could they become the Invincibles with no silverware?
At first glance this seems an incongruous situation even as things stand now but those 29 games without suffering defeat include an eyebrow-raising 14 draws.
While Juventus have been their usual miserly selves in defence conceding a frugal 17 goals and Buffon and Chiellini in particular having magnificent campaigns up front they have been all-too-often wasteful at key moments.
At 37 and firmly in the twilight of a wonderful career Del Piero cannot be expected to bang them away with his prior regularity but for his strike partners Matri, Borriello and Quagliarella there is little excuse.
It is fair to say that with an Ibrahimovic or Cavani leading their line Juve would now be sitting imperiously atop the Serie A table and though being firmly in contention with the additional feat of a Coppa Italia final attained can hardly be described as disappointing – indeed 29 games unbeaten is, to put it mildly, not to be sniffed at – Juventus could look back in May and think of what could have been if only they had splurged on a top-class front man.
This was supposed to be the season the Old Lady consigned her recent, sullied past to bed. If they continue their undefeated streak while Milan remain strong they might yet be making history all over again. And once more for a reason they’d prefer not to.