Juventus will play host to Ferencvaros in the Champions League on Tuesday with nothing other than three points acceptable for the Italian champions.
There have been grounds for cautious optimism under Andrea Pirlo so far – after a rocky start to life in Turin, the rookie manager is starting to bring something approaching stability to a strange Juventus side, who have reemerged as a contender for Serie A glory.
One area where they could do with tidying things up a little is Europe, however, where they sit second behind Barcelona in Group G, and where three points would most likely see them qualify for the competition’s round of 16 stage.
While the quantity of injuries that Pirlo has to deal with does not seem too daunting, it doesn’t get worse than both Giorgio Chiellini (thigh) and Leonardo Bonucci (muscle injury) missing out, although it does mean that Matthijs de Ligt will finally be treated to an extended run in the team.
The Bianconeri will also be without Aaron Ramsey, who has a thigh injury of his own. Ferencvaros, on the other hand, are pretty fortunate to just have left-back Eldar Civic out of action.
Juventus were admittedly looking pretty ropey domestically, and after a 1-1 draw against Hellas Verona in late October were fifth in the league table – four places away from where a club with their aspirations should ideally be.
But a switch was flicked with a thumping 4-1 win over Spezia delivered by none other than Cristiano Ronaldo, and things have looked considerably more positive since then, with two wins from a further three games taking La Vecchia Signora much closer to where they need to be.
The season for Ferencvaros has largely been a tale of two competitions. In the Nemzeti Bajnokság I? They’re absolute world-beaters, mate – they haven’t lost a single game yet, and hold a commanding four point lead domestically with up to two games in hand over some of their rivals.
In Europe? Somewhat less convincing – against Juventus they conceded four, against Barcelona they conceded five. The only positive has been a stirring last-minute equaliser against Dynamo Kyiv.