MILAN: The Juventus defense is leaking, goals have dried up and captain Gianluigi Buffon has rung the alarm after the Serie A champions were exposed during a 2-1 ‘Derby d’Italia’ defeat to Inter Milan.
Juventus host Cagliari on Wednesday, and goalkeeper Buffon wants tightening up at the back.
“That’s the third time this season we’ve conceded a goal from a corner kick, it’s not like us,” Buffon hit out.
He spoke out after Mauro Icardi, from a corner, and Ivan Perisic rose above the Juve defence to head goals and secure Inter’s first San Siro win over the Turin giants since 2010 and the reign of Jose Mourinho.
Juve’s first defeat of the season has left Napoli top with a one-point cushion, and the southerners can even afford a wry smile at Juve’s expense.
Former Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain hit a record 36 goals in Serie A last season but, despite hitting a brace in a 3-1 league win over Sassuolo last week, the Argentinian has fired blanks in his last two Juve appearances.
Indeed Juventus, tipped for glory, perhaps prematurely, in this season’s Champions League following midfielder Miralem Pjanic’s signing from Roma and wingback Dani Alves’ move north from Barcelona, are suffering in attack.
Massimiliano Allegri’s men were held to a frustrating goalless draw by Europa League champions Sevilla last Wednesday and their 66th minute opener on Sunday came courtesy of Swiss wingback Stephan Lichsteiner.
Simultaneously, Napoli forward Jose Callejon sits top of the league scoring charts with five goals in four games, and Polish teammate Arkadiusz Milik — bought from Ajax as a replacement for Higuain — has hit four in four games.
Although Higuain has three league goals to his name, Paulo Dybala — Juve’s top scorer last season — has yet to get off the mark.
Allegri is also facing criticism after a mediocre display by Pjanic in front of the Juventus defence, but the 49-year-old coach says he expects a reaction.
“The defeat will help us in the end,” Allegri said.
“Thankfully, on Wednesday we have a chance to make amends, although Cagliari are a lively, strong side so we’ll have to be very focused.
“We should be raising our concentration levels, not lowering them.”
Defeat to the Sardinians is unthinkable, but would be warmly welcomed by a number of sides looking to end Juve’s five-year grip on the championship.
Inter have been touted as one of Juve’s biggest challengers this season, and Sunday’s disciplined, compact performance gave an indication of just how far the Nerazzurri can go this season under new coach Frank De Boer.
Even Allegri admitted: “Inter are one of the contenders for the scudetto.”
An opening day defeat to Chievo, followed by a dour home draw with Palermo are now distant memories and De Boer’s miserable few weeks in the hot seat have made way for plenty of optimism.
“This result gives us confidence and we needed that as a team,” said De Boer, who succeeded Roberto Mancini only two weeks before the start of the season.
“It’s important to move on as a team and today we did that. That’s the only way we can get results.”
Elsewhere, Roma host league new boys Crotone, who claimed their first point of the season in a 1-1 draw with Empoli on Sunday, to the Stadio Olimpico looking to make amends for Sunday’s 1-0 defeat to Fiorentina.
It left Luciano Spalletti’s men in third at three points adrift and he said: “The table is really tight but this defeat is a missed opportunity for us.
“When you lose, you go home with no points but you still have to evaluate the performance. The team did its job tonight. Sometimes in football you end up losing when you play good teams like Fiorentina.”