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Football | Italy

Juventus players celebrate © Reuters Images

Invincible Juve's road to title glory



Having gone the entire season unbeaten with one match to play, no-one could begrudge Juventus their 28th Italian league title, secured with a 2-0 victory over Cagliari on Sunday.

It was Juve's 41st match in the league and cup in this campaign without suffering a single defeat.

That statistic is partly due to a technicality as Juve did in fact lose 2-1 to AC Milan over 90 minutes in their Italian Cup semifinal second leg, but that result brought extra time and the Old Lady of Turin equalised to finish the supplementary period level and preserve their unbeaten run.

Whatever the details, the stats will forever tell the tale of a remarkable run that is not entirely undeserved.

There have only been a pair of games in which Juve really flirted with defeat, other than that one against Milan when in fact they totally dominated the extra period.

Away to Napoli in November they trailed 2-0 and 3-1 before their hosts' defensive frailties cost them dearly and Juve snatched a 3-3 draw.

Then in February they were 1-0 down to Milan at San Siro when a poor refereeing mistake denied the hosts a second goal.

Antonio Conte's men hit back late on and came away with a 1-1 draw.

Back then Juve were struggling to score goals and paying for that deficiency with too many dropped points in draws that should have been turned into wins.

But since a 0-0 draw with Genoa on March 11, Juve reeled off eight straight Serie A successes before a blip in mid-week when they were held 1-1 at home by 10-man Lecce.

That run is the simple reason they are champions today.

What had held them back, and left them four points behind Milan in early March, was their inability to finish teams off.

In 27 league games up to that point they had failed to win 14 of those – more than half.

Their unbeaten run was considered something of an anomaly and the Italian football world waited for Juve to be found out.

Instead, Conte's men grew visibly in confidence, starting with a 5-0 thumping of Fiorentina, helped in no small part by their hosts having a man sent off in the first half when the score was still 1-0.

That seemed to unlock the door for the Turin giants, who went on to find form, self-belief and goals aplenty.

Plundering 26 goals in their last 10 games is testament to the turnaround mid-March brought.

Before that their title push had been floundering on their troubles in front of goal as they drew six out of seven games.

Juve have undoubtedly earnt this title and can rightly claim to have been the best side this season, taking six points off Inter Milan and four each off Milan, Napoli, Lazio, Udinese and Roma.

Strangely, it is only strugglers such as Chievo, Bologna and Genoa who have avoided defeat at Juve's hand.

But despite this success, there have still been some cracks that have been but papered over.

Namely, Juve lack a real hitman, or bomber, as they are called in Italy.

Their top scorer is Alessandro Matri with just 10 league goals – Milan, Napoli, Inter and Udinese all have a player who has scored at least double that.

While the goalscoring has been evenly spread among the Juve team, with Mirko Vucinic, Simone Pepe, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal all chipping in with at least half a dozen in Serie A, the lack of a get-out-of-jail-free goalscorer is something that may be addressed for next season.

Juve have managed to put it together this time around and come out on top but they have been aided by their sabbatical from European competition.

Next time around they will not be having that mid-week rest while their rivals are slugging away on the continent.

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