Milan: Juventus will be looking to end a run of six Champions League games without a win on Wednesday when they host FC Copenhagen with qualification from Group B hanging delicately in the balance.
Antonio Conte’s men claimed their fifth Serie A win on the trot on Sunday to move top of the table, but in Europe the Italian champions have so far struggled to make an impact.
After four group games, Juve — who also lost their last two games in last season’s competition, to eventual winners Bayern Munich — are still winless and sit bottom of the pile on three points, seven behind leaders Real Madrid.
However, Juve are only one point behind second-placed Galatasaray and Copenhagen, meaning a win on Wednesday could propel them up to second place — if Real, as widely expected, account for Galatasaray in Madrid.
Depending on events in the Spanish capital, that scenario could leave the Bianconeri on six points with a possible two-point cushion on Galatasaray ahead of a tricky away trip to Istanbul next month.
If Juventus manage only a draw against the Danes, qualification becomes far more complicated, while defeat would end Conte’s hopes of taking his side into the last 16 knockout phase for the second successive season.
Conte was ecstatic after goals from Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez secured a 2-0 away win at Livorno on Sunday and sent the champions top of the league for the first time this season.
But, looking ahead to Wednesday, the Juve coach admitted having to rely on favourable results elsewhere is not ideal.
“We’d much prefer to have our destiny in our own hands and not to have to rely on the results of other teams,” Conte said on Sunday. “But we’re still very motivated to keep going in this competition.”
Juventus escaped with a draw in their group opener in the Danish capital when Fabio Quagliarella cancelled out Nicolai Jorgensen’s 14th minute opener nine minutes after the break.
Since then, the Italian champions have fallen at every hurdle.
Quagliarella looked to have secured a late win at home to Galatasaray when his 87th minute strike gave Juve a 2-1 lead, only for Umut Bulut to pounce on slack defending a minute later to secure a shock draw for the Turks.
Defeat to Real in Madrid in their next game was widely expected, however Juve, reduced to 10 men early in the second half when Giorgio Chiellini was sent off, showed plenty of character on their way to a 2-1 reverse.
Juve hosted then Spanish giants but were outclassed by the pace of Cristiano Ronaldo, who added to his two-goal tally in Madrid by cancelling out an Arturo Vidal penalty, and Gareth Bale, who levelled for the Spaniards five minutes after Llorente had put Juve within sight of a precious win.
It has left Juve wondering what might have been. But on the plus side, Copenhagen’s record in Italy is poor — they have lost on all three previous visits — and the Italians seem to be finding form in timely fashion.
Although Argentinian striker Tevez has not hit the Champions League net since April 7, 2009 — when he scored for Manchester United away to FC Porto — his fledgling partnership with Llorente is bearing fruit.
Llorente, who has scored twice in the group stages so far, smashed a superb volley into the Livorno net on Sunday, when he also set up Tevez for Juve’s second.
“It’s starting to get better with Carlos every day,” said Llorente. “Playing more regularly gives me strength and this goal has boosted me even further.”