Juventus defense falling apart without the BBC

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri gestures during the Champions League group D soccer match between Juventus and Barcelona, at the Allianz Stadium in Turin, Italy, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

TURIN, Italy (AP) Without the BBC, Juventus’ defense is falling apart.

Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini had been the mainstay at the back for Juventus and Italy for several years, helping the Bianconeri to six successive Serie A titles.

However, Bonucci surprisingly left for AC Milan in the offseason, while veterans Barzagli and Chiellini have each missed a handful of games already this season.

And the effects have been clear to see. Juventus has conceded 14 times in 13 league matches this season – including three at Sampdoria last weekend.

None of the other sides in the top four of the Italian league have let in as many goals.

While that may not be so much of a concern against struggling Crotone on Sunday, it will pose much more of a threat in the following Serie A match at free-scoring leader Napoli.

Juventus can take some consolation from keeping a clean sheet in Wednesday’s 0-0 draw at home to Barcelona in the Champions League – having lost 3-0 to the same opponent in Spain, earlier in the campaign. However, Barcelona rested star player Lionel Messi for nearly an hour.

”The positive note about the match is that we didn’t let in a goal,” Barzagli said. ”But we can still do better, in attack as well as us at the back, in developing the play.

”Certainly we can still improve a lot but I want to look at things positively. I think we’re having a good year and there’s not much to be alarmed about.”

Wednesday’s match was only the second time Juventus had not conceded, in any competition, since the end of September.

And coach Massimiliano Allegri says that is what he is going to focus on in the weeks to come, ahead of the Serie A winter break which starts Jan. 6.

Allegri feels he has not had enough time to work with his players, with matches coming thick and fast and a stop-start season which has already seen three international breaks.

”What with playing matches every three days and international breaks, I’ve gone three months without coaching,” Allegri said. ”Now, finally, we have time until January 6, to work calmly together and think about improving the quality of our play.

”Perhaps we won’t be as easy on the eye, but the longer you go without conceding, the more confidence you build and the better you play.”

Allegri will have to sort things out at the back quickly as Juventus faces three of its title rivals in December – it hosts Inter and Roma as well as travelling to Napoli. It also has its final Champions League group match at Olympiakos, where a win will ensure it reaches the knockout stages.

”The Napoli match will be a very difficult battle in a heated stadium,” said forward Paulo Dybala, who was by far Juve’s best player on Wednesday. ”We have a very demanding month coming up, but we are Juventus and we have to always work to improve and to win.”