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Juventus in state of flux following Champions League exit

For the first time since the 2013/14 season, the Champions League last 16 will not feature Juventus after the Old Lady were knocked out of Group H with one match to spare.

This article was originally published on 26 October 2022

Max Allegri's men have had a difficult season so far and that was compounded on Tuesday evening following a 4-3 defeat away at Portuguese outfit Benfica, who secured their passage into the last 16 of Europe's premier competition.

The Italian giants were 4-1 down after 50 minutes and although Arkadiusz Milik and Weston McKennie's late goals gave them some hope, their best hope of European success will come in the form of the Europa League if they finish third in Group H.

Domestically, they are also struggling with Allegri now under pressure to keep hold of his job - the Bianconeri currently lie eighth in the Serie A table, 10 points off leaders Napoli, and are 20/1 to win the title from here.

Season plunges to a new low

A win away at Benfica would have given Juventus a fighting chance of making the last 16 of the Champions League, albeit in the knowledge that they would have had to face Paris Saint-Germain while Benfica have the comparatively straightforward game of Maccabi Haifa.

The Old Lady's defence has been their strongest asset this season - they have only conceded seven times in Serie A - yet they were all over the place against an impressive Benfica, going down 3-1 at half time.

Juventus showed resolve by bringing the game back to 4-3 but the damage was already done earlier.

After the match, Allegri says he believed the result was not a disaster: "We made too many mistakes tonight but it's not useful to talk about that now. I don't consider this a failure. In football there are also defeats."

However, it is another chapter in the club's descent from the big time. Juventus won nine Italian league titles in a row between 2012 and 2020 but now look to be in a battle to even retain their place in Europe for next season.

Why has it gone wrong?

Financial problems have plagued Juve over the past few years with the club being forced into selling several key assets over the years.

Cristiano Ronaldo was a big loss last summer after his goalscoring exploits in Turin, while the most recent transfer window saw their defence weakened with the loss of inspirational skipper Giorgio Chiellini and Dutch defender Matthijs De Ligt.

Paul Pogba and Angel Di Maria arrived on frees and won't have come cheap but their scattergun approach to the transfer market has led to a number of poor signings that haven't represented value for money.

The re-emergence of their traditional rivals AC and Inter Milan have put Juve on the back foot and it is no coincidence that rumours of the European Super League making another comeback are swirling once more. Owner Andrea Agnelli was one of the key backers and it would be in Juventus' interest for the competition to be given the go-ahead.

On the pitch, Juve have struggled for goals with too many costly draws in the league. That has transferred over to the Champions League and the nadir of the season came in Israel when the hapless Bianconeri were beaten 2-0 by Maccabi Haifa two weeks ago.

It means Allegri - who guided Juventus to five titles and two Champions League finals during his first tenure - may now be clinging onto his job.

Who could replace Allegri?

If Juventus continue to falter and a change is made in the dugout then it will be interesting to see what direction of travel they intend to go in.

Zinedine Zidane is currently out of work after leaving Real Madrid in 2021 and the former Juventus midfielder's stock still remains very high after his remarkable success with Los Blancos, particularly in Europe.

Jose Mourinho is another who has been linked with the vacant managerial post and he has been rejuvenated at Conference League winners Roma following mixed spells in England with Manchester United and Tottenham.

Another manager potentially up for consideration would be Mauricio Pochettino, who left PSG at the end of last season. The Argentinian is more comfortable with working at a lower budget than both Mourinho and Zidane so would make sense in that regard. However, there are questions on his ability to manage big egos where the other two have proven they can.

If Juve continue to fall down, however, they might not even be an attractive proposition for any so-called world-class manager, so a crucial period awaits.

Allegri will hold onto his job for now, but prior to the World Cup they face games against Lecce, Inter Milan, Hellas Verona, and Lazio. It could be a run which determines the 55-year-old's future.

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