Andrea Pirlo was handed a potent reminder of the scale of the task at hand to return his side to the highest echelons of European football
Juventus sunk to a near-two-decade Champions League low in a defeat to Barcelona on Wednesday, as the Bianconeri saw their mixed start to the season compounded with a humiliating result on home soil against Lionel Messi and Co.
Andrea Pirlo’s side may have snatched another Serie A crown last term but it very well looks like it could be a different story this time around as they continue to struggle to rediscover their best form under their new manager.
Though their 2-0 loss to the Blaugranna represented their first such result of the campaign, the manner of their capitulation to a visiting side who themselves have been off the pace in the midst of protracted off-field issues will undoubtedly have touched a nerve for the faithful that usually fill Allianz Stadium to the brim.
Having parted ways with Maurizio Sarri following his underperformance in his only season in charge in Turin, the magnitude of Pirlo’s task was laid apparent in a game that saw Juve pick up an unwanted record that has laid undisturbed for the better part of this century.
Though they faced some remarkable misfortunes – a hat-trick of offside goals chalked off for Alvaro Morata among them – the club still failed to register a single shot on target across the full game, as Ronald Koeman’s team outplayed them in terms of possession, pass accuracy and attempts on the opposition net.
Shorn of Cristiano Ronaldo they may have been, but Juve’s performance called to mind the spectre of when they last faced Barca on their home turf, almost three years ago in another Champions League group stage clash.
On that occasion, they escaped with a point from a goalless draw, but frequently found themselves penned back with just a shade over a third of the total ball throughout the encounter.
It remained one of the more chastening matches, in particular given that then-head coach Ernesto Valverde elected to rest the talismanic Messi for a game that ultimately confirmed their place in the last-16.
Now, nearly three seasons later, the Argentine was on hand to deliver the finishing blow and cap a much-needed morale boost for the visitors – but for the home side, his evergreen presence simply served to remind Juve and Pirlo that they have much work to do if they hope to find themselves as true European contenders of the highest order once again.