Juventus showed plenty of fight in their efforts to salvage their season in a 1-0 win over Fiorentina in Matchday 22 of Serie A, with the return of Federico Chiesa and Angel Di Maria in attack either side of Dusan Vlahovic a sign of better things to come for the beleaguered Bianconeri.
Rarely has a Juventus v Fiorentina clash meant so little to the title race or the European qualification picture, but starting the game in 12th and 13th respectively, the old foes were fighting for a top half finish at best.
The Bianconeri had eyes on a bigger prize earlier in the campaign, but their 15-point deduction as a result of capital gains fraud has shifted their perspective and sent them tumbling down to midtable. Fiorentina, meanwhile, have simply slipped away after just a single league win since Christmas.
Despite their league positions, the hosts at the Allianz Stadium proved their footballing superiority and were in complete control, earning the victory through Adrien Rabiot‘s first half goal. Whilst any hopes of a late run to qualify for the Europa League looks beyond even this Juventus team, the Turin club had enough about them to suggest that they are not going down without a fight.
Dream trident link up for the first time
Juventus were finally afforded the opportunity to unleash coach Massimiliano Allegri‘s preferred attacking trident of ex-Fiorentina pair Vlahovic and Chiesa, as well as Di Maria. Chiesa has only just come back from a long-term knee injury, whilst Vlahovic struggled with his own fitness issues at the turn of the year.
Whilst there were signs of rust between the trio, there was also enough in the display to think that with time, Juventus have a devastating attacking line-up.
Allegri insisted prior to kick-off that his three forwards were in good shape and ready to link up, whilst the balance in midfield provided by goalscorer Rabiot and Manuel Locatelli allowed them to push the trio forward and challenge Fiorentina‘s backline.
It looked to have paid off when Vlahovic slotted home from a wonderful Filip Kostic through ball in the second half, but VAR showed that he was marginally offside. Nonetheless, the striker’s 64 minutes on the pitch were impressive, and he is starting to look back to his best after his injury.
Juventus have certainly missed their star striker in recent weeks, and with Chiesa working his way back up to full fitness, a run to the latter stages of the Europa League and a challenge for the Coppa Italia is not out of the question.
Juventus address poor form but worries grow for Viola
After a tumultuous season for Juventus, including a shock elimination in the Group Stages of the Champions League, there has been little for Bianconeri fans to cheer about. Coupled with this is a slow start to 2023 in Turin, after a 3-3 draw against Atalanta was followed up by a shock 2-0 defeat to Monza.
Allegri‘s side have avoided three consecutive home league defeats for the first time since 2015, whilst extending their dominance over their bitter rivals to 11 wins from their last 12 home meetings. It has lifted the pressure somewhat, particularly with the threat of further punishment for off the pitch indiscretions making every point a necessity.
Fiorentina, on the other hand, have endured a miserable new year and have found just two points from their seven Serie A games in 2023. The Viola looked to have snatched a late equaliser through a Gaetano Castrovilli strike, only for VAR to break Florentine hearts for offside, and it was symbolic of the way things are going for the club.
Harbouring hopes of breaking into the European qualification spots, those have dissipated after a woeful run and the Viola look dangerously out of sorts. Up next is a home clash against local rivals Empoli, and with it the chance to end their malaise.