Juventus: ‘The Old Lady’ in Europe

Juventus: ‘The Old Lady’ in Europe

We take a look at the past exploits in European competition of Barça’s opponents in the Champions League group stages

Since the current format of the Champions League was introduced in the early 1990s, meetings between the top teams in Europe have become increasingly frequent in the competition. You only have to cast an eye back over recent seasons to find multiple confrontations between FC Barcelona and the likes of Juventus, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City.

Therefore, when the draw for the group stage of this season's competition brought Barça and Serie A champions Juventus back together, we thought it would be a good idea to look back at the record of the club nicknamed ‘La Vecchia Signora’ (The Old Lady) in European competition throughout their long and distinguished history. 

Juventus was founded in 1897 but it was not until the 1920s when the owners of car company Fiat, the Agnelli family, took control of the club that the club began their domination of Italian football. With 32 league titles to their name, Juventus are by far the most successful club in the country, Milan clubs AC and Inter are some way behind with 18 titles each.

Nevertheless, the bianconeri have not won a major trophy in Europe in over 20 years. The recent drought does not detract at all from the fact that Juventus are still considered one of the biggest and most glamourous clubs on the continent who over the years have boasted such stars of the game as Dino Zoff, Michel Platini, Roberto Baggio, Alessandro Del Piero, and more recently Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Gonzalo Higuaín, amongst their playing staff. 

The Trappatoni years

Whilst Juventus’ reign as the most successful club in Italy stretches back almost a century, the club did not claim their first European trophy until the late 1970s. After suffering defeat at the hands of Johan Cruyff’s all-conquering Ajax side in the 1973 European Cup Final, the Italians finally got their hands on some European silverware by beating Athletic Club Bilbao over two legs in the 1977 UEFA Cup final under legendary coach Giovanni Trappatoni.

The Juventus team of that era formed the backbone of the successful Italy squad that claimed victory in the World Cup in Spain in 1982. Nevertheless, with Trappatoni still in charge, the prime objective of the club’s first ever European Cup title continued to elude with German side Hamburg defeating them in the final in 1983. Success in the competition was just two years away but nobody could have imagined at what terrible price it would come.

La Vecchia Signora bounced back from the Hamburg defeat by claiming the European Cup Winners Cup for the first time in 1984, overcoming Porto 2-1 in the final in Switzerland. The bianconeri underlined their claims to be one of the best teams in Europe when they defeated European Champions Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup in January 1985.

Fate brought the two giants of Europe together again for the final of the European Cup on 29 May 1985. Juventus’ first ever victory in the competition thanks to a 1-0 courtesy of a penalty from star player Michel Platini was completely overshadowed by the tragic events which took place before the game in the Heysel Stadium in Brussels.

Crowd disturbances led to a wall collapsing and the subsequent deaths of 39 Juventus fans in one of the darkest moments in the history of European Football. What should have been remembered as the day that Juventus celebrated winning all three major European trophies is now the most tragic chapter in the club’s long history. 

UEFA Cup success and three finals in a row

With AC Milan dominating domestically at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s, Juventus were forced to seek European glory in the UEFA Cup. With Dino Zoff as coach, the club from Piedmont claimed a second trophy in the competition in 1990, defeating fellow Serie A club Fiorentina in the final. Further success came three years later when La Vecchia Signora defeated German side Borussia Dortmund in the two legged final to claim their third UEFA Cup. The decade would see the two teams clash again in Europe with an even bigger prize at stake.

With the bianconeri finally breaking AC Milan stranglehold on the scudetto and the new format of the rebranded UEFA Champions League, the club once again were able to compete in Europe’s premier club competition. The return could not have been scripted better as on the first appearance since the 1986/87 season, Juventus won the trophy for the second time with a nail-biting penalty shootout win over holders Ajax in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome in the 1996 final. 

Under coach Marcello Lippi, the team appeared set to dominate European Football for the next few seasons after claiming the 1996 UEFA Super Cup against Paris Saint-Germain. All appeared to be going to plan when they reached the final once again the following year where they were heavy favourites to defeat old foes Borussia Dortmund. In Munich, however, an inspired Karl Heinz Riedle scored twice to give the Bundesliga a 3-1 club with Juventus failing in their objective to retain the trophy for the very first time.

History would repeat itself again the following season when Juventus reached their third consecutive Champions League final, only to be denied once again, this time by Real Madrid and a Pedrag Mijatovic goal.

Fall and rise

The new millennia brought another Champions League final and another defeat for the long suffering Juventus fans. The defeat on penalties in the 2003 final at Old Trafford in Manchester was made worse for the tifosi as it came against domestic rivals AC Milan

The rest of the decade was a difficult one for La Vecchia Signora with Internazionale reigning domestically and Juventus struggling in the Champions League against the powerful Premier League clubs of the era. The calciopoli scandal in Italian football saw the club relegated to Serie B for the first time in its history yet despite just one season in the Italian second division, Juventus still struggled in Europe with the 2010s upon us.

The bianconeri had not got beyond the quarter-finals in the competition since losing to AC Milan in the final when the 2014/15 campaign began. Indeed the previous year they had failed to make it out of a group that contained Real Madrid, FC Copenhagen and Galatasaray. Despite three straight Serie A titles under coach Antonio Conte, expectations for the team now in the hands of Massimiliano Allegri were not high.

After squeezing through the group stage, confidence was restored by a comprehensive win over old rivals Borussia Dortmund in the round of 16. Allegri’s team rode their luck in the quarter-finals against Monaco but fully deserved their semi-final win over holders Real Madrid to set up a final against FC Barcelona.

Juventus were always in the game in the Olympiastadion in Berlin against Luis Enrique’s all conquering Barça side and victory was only assured for the blaugranes thanks to Neymar’s late strike which made the final score 3-1.

The following season saw the Italians fall at the quarter-final stage again, losing in extra time to Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich. The 2016/17 campaign saw Juventus reach the final again after having dispatched FC Barcelona 3-0 on aggregate in the quarter finals. La Liga opposition again stood between the Italians and a third Champions League title with Real Madrid their opponents in the final played in Cardiff, Wales. La Vecchia Signora, however, were denied by Zinedine Zidane's team with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring twice in a 4-1 win. 

A season later the same opposition knocked out Juventus at the quarter final stage on their way to yet another victory in the competition in the 2018 final. The Serie A club reacted by signing the man who had helped Real Madrid to three consecutive Champions League titles, Cristiano Ronaldo. However, the arrival of the Portuguese superstar did not bring the hoped for immediate success in Europe. In the last two seasons defeats in the quarter finals against Ajax and in the last 16 against Olympique Lyonnais have brought more frustration despite Juventus' continued domestic domination in Italy. 

This season, with former player Andrea Pirlo having replaced Maurizio Sarri as coach, the Serie A giants face FC Barcelona once again, this time in the group stage, with hopes renewed of Juventus reigning supreme in Europe once again. 

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