Football Football

Italian titans Juventus clinch 31st Scudetti


JUVE-SCUDETTOMILAN, May 2- The general view in Italy suggests Juventus are simply too strong for a Serie A league still gripped by an economic crisis which is restricting the spending power of potential rivals.

On the other hand had Roma not suffered a spectacular collapse the title race would have been far closer but the fact remains Juventus still cruised to a 31st title and fourth in a row on Saturday.

It may have come with less panache than last year, when they enjoyed an unbeaten Serie A campaign under ex-coach Antonio Conte resulting in a third consecutive title with a record 102 points.

But his successor Massimiliano Allegri, who led AC Milan to their last league title in his first year in charge in 2011, was prepared to make small sacrifices on the domestic front if it meant boosting their chances of making it past the quarter-final stages of the Champions League for the first time in over a decade.

Juventus have suffered only two league defeats and drawn seven times so far this season, and remain on course for a first Champions League final since losing to AC Milan at Old Trafford in 2003.

They face Real Madrid in the semi-finals.

Club chairman Andrea Agnelli was delighted with their Champions League progress, but said it was no more than what was expected from the Turin giants: “A team like Juventus has to be challenging on all fronts in the spring time.”

In spite of Roma coach Rudi Garcia confidently predicting his side would end their 14-year long title drought, Juventus started as firm favourites to defend their title this season.

After winning their opening six games, dropping their first points in a 1-1 away draw at Sassuolo, Juventus suffered the first of their two defeats so far to Genoa on October 29.

By then, they had already inflicted a serious blow to Garcia’s hopes of dethroning them — dominating and ultimately winning a tense match with Roma 3-2, thanks to a controversial late winner by Leonardo Bonucci in Turin.

Match referee Gianluca Rocchi, who had awarded three dubious penalties in the first half alone, was accused of bowing to Juventus pressure.

The shadow of corruption, which saw Juventus stripped of the titles they won in 2005 and 2006 following their involvement in the ‘Calciopioli’ match-fixing scandal, resurfaced but Allegri’s men weathered the storm.

Thanks to goals from Paul Pogba, Martin Caceres and Arturo Vidal, Juve’s 3-1 win at Napoli gave them a three-point lead over Roma and meant they were crowned ‘winter champions’.

Despite Roma’s solid first half, their season began to unravel only two games into 2015 when a series of injuries and a loss of form saw them held to eight draws in nine games.

By the time Roma got reacquainted with victory, winning 1-0 away to Cesena at the end of March, Juventus had opened up a 14-point lead.

Roma welcomed Juve to the Stadio Olimpico on March 2 hoping to salvage something from their campaign, but after a 1-1 draw Garcia finally admitted his early season optimism about beating Juve to the title had been misplaced.

“I did it to combat an overriding sense of pessimism,” said the Frenchman.

“They weren’t the declarations of a fool who doesn’t think about the consequences. To maintain motivation and ambition, maybe that’s what you need to do.”