MILAN (Reuters) – Juventus should finally wrap up an eighth successive Serie A title on Saturday but it will be little more than a consolation prize to the Turin side following their Champions League exit.
At the same time, opponents Fiorentina, without a win for two months, will have their minds elsewhere as they concentrate on their Coppa Italia campaign which offers the chance to win their first silverware since 2001.
Juve need a point on Saturday to clinch the title with five matches to spare. Even if they lose, they will have another chance on Monday, when second-placed Napoli, who are 17 points behind, would still need to beat Atalanta to prolong the contest.
The lack of anticipation around Saturday’s match sums up a strange Serie A season in which Juventus, spearheaded by Cristiano Ronaldo, have been utterly dominant without playing particularly well.
Their signing of the five-times World Player of the Year in July was initially seen as a boost for Serie A which has been struggling to attract the world’s biggest players.
But Ronaldo’s ability to conjure goals out of nothing has often allowed to Juventus to win matches without really exerting themselves and, in others, snatch wins they have not really deserved.
Fiorentina, meanwhile, are one of several exasperating Serie A outfits who threaten to offer a challenge to the bigger teams before slumping into mediocrity.
They boast plenty of talented young players such as forward Giovanni Simeone — the son of Atletico Madrid coach Diego — and Federico Chiesa.
Yet they have struggled to turn dominance of matches into wins, and their record of 16 draws in 32 league matches, plus their position in the table — 10th out of 20 — sums up a mediocre season.
Their frustration came to a head two weeks ago when, after a home defeat to lowly Frosinone, the club issued a statement criticising the team and coach Stefano Pioli resigned in protest, saying his “human and professional” qualities had been questioned.
In his place, Vincenzo Montella has returned for a second stint, having led Fiorentina to three successive fourth-placed finishes during his previous spell.
The bright spot has been Fiorentina’s Coppa Italia campaign which has taken them to the semi-finals. They visit Atalanta for the second leg next Thursday following a 3-3 draw in the first.
Montella said on his arrival that he sensed the air of discontent among the club’s fans.
“In Florence, we need synergy between the fans, media and the team,” he said. “I ask them to trust in my enthusiasm and to only protest if we deserve it.”
“There is always a sense of disappointment after a change of coach especially for players who got on so well with Pioli. However, in football you need to turn over a new leaf quickly and the lads want to turn around this negative trend.”
(Writing by Brian Homewood; editing by John Stonestreet)