When Gonzalo Higuaín joined the Turin club for €90 million, it was a signal of intent. Not just to the rest of Serie A but also to Europe that despite losing Paul Pogba for a world record fee, the Iron Lady was not disappearing from Europe’s elite. Since the summer, Juventus have been at their impervious best. Just four league defeats and zero in the Champions League mean Juventus are arguably the most inform team left in the competition.
“We wanted to be among the top eight and that’s our level. If you’re always in the mix with the best sides, sooner or later you end up winning the competition.” - Gianluigi Buffon
The club captain made no effort to hide Juventus’ intentions, they want a seat at Europe’s elite table and believe they are on the way to sitting at the head of it. They have made steady progress to this goal which peaked at reaching the final in 2015 before coming unstuck against Barcelona. Buffon says these are good signs and believes that consistent qualifications to the latter stages of the tournament will allow Juve that little bit of luck needed to take the trophy home.
Aside from Higuaín, the majority of Juventus’ hopes lay at Paulo Dybala’s feet. The 23 year old has hit form at the crucial period of the season and has notched four goals in his last four matches. He is developing into a big game player and holds the composure to strike at the pivotal moments, a 97th minute penalty to win against Milan is never easy. He also has the confidence elite players need.
Before the second leg of Juventus’ clash against Porto, Dybala signalled where he felt the Italian club is at the moment. “Since the Champions League started we've been at the same level as Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. If we get through we'll also be on the same level now. We're also top of the League and we won the first match of the Coppa Italia [semi-final], so I think in some ways we're doing better than them.” They are strong words but fair given the current climate.
Unlike previous years, you can not point to a team and say they are the clear favourites for the competition. Even with just eight teams remaining, there is still plenty of shocks left. Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich represent the strongest teams having won the competition recently but teams like Juventus along with Atlético Madrid are more than capable of beating them. Borussia Dortmund are also both well established, strong teams while Leicester City remain the bag of unpredictability that no team really wants to be drawn against.
It is a strong period for Juventus and one they will hope to capitalise on as they hope to end their 20+ year wait for the big trophy of European football.