Juve's Champions League woe continue after lifeless loss to Olympiakos
As if Juventus' difficulties on the road in the Champions League were not enough, the travails of Andrea Pirlo have given Massimiliano Allegri something else to worry about following their 1-0 defeat to Olympiakos.
Pajtim Kasami's goal was the least the home side deserved for its efforts, with Pirlo's loose pass in midfield quickly pounced upon before the Swiss attacker guided Kostas Mitroglou's center into the back of the net.
Had Kasami buried a golden opportunity early in the second half, there could have been no complaints from a Juventus side that was simply not at the races.
Just as was the case away to Atletico Madrid three weeks ago, Juve was lifeless for far too much of the encounter. But, unlike its trip to the Vicente Calderon, this shouldn't have been a fixture which held any significant fear for it.
Juve wasn't without its chances in the first half, but those that did fall its way came almost exclusively from set-pieces.
Omar Elabdellaoui had to clear off the line after Carlos Tevez's shot skewed over goalkeeper Roberto from one corner, while the Argentine would later have a goal disallowed from another.
A Pirlo free kick was only partially dealt with, but Angelo Ogbonna couldn't hook the ball goalwards from the bouncing ball. Alvaro Morata also failed to steer on target after another Pirlo set-piece.
From open play, it was a completely different story.
There was no fluidity about Juve's passing, with the kind of clinical and controlled possession football which has decimated Serie A for the past three years notable by its absence. Normally their midfield strangles the life out of its opposition, but tonight they appeared more intent on killing off their own air supply.
The ageing Pirlo was a long, long way short of form and fitness, regularly losing the ball in very unfamiliar fashion and floating one horrendous free-kick strike high and wide of goal. It summed up his night, and was followed seconds later by his removal in favor of Claudio Marchisio. Rarely can his substitution in the 57th minute have been so widely celebrated.
It was little coincidence that Juve stepped up its game after he had departed. Suddenly they found greater space in the attacking half, with Morata forcing two fine saves from Roberto and Tevez also being kept out by the brilliant Spaniard.
The late onslaught, though, was more a reminder of all the things Juve hadn't been trying for the first hour.
Since dispatching Celtic with ease in the round of 16 in 2012-13, The Bianconeri have gone from hopefuls to also-rans in the Champions League. In six trips across the continent they have lost to Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Galatasaray, Atletico and now Olympiakos. Their only point on their travels came against the minnows of Copenhagen.
Juventus needs to get its act sorted, and fast, if it is to avoid a second straight group exit, but the club must also decide what to do about Pirlo.
Having forced him out onto the pitch as he continues his comeback from injury, they need to give him time to come to terms with the pace of first-team football again. As for his sudden inability to find a teammate from 10 yards away, they had simply better hope that the metronomic midfielder can find his range again soon.
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