The coronavirus pandemic's impact on the top of Serie A's table was that it just delayed what has come to be the inevitable: Juventus is once again the Italian league champion.
Juventus put the finishing touches on a ninth straight Scudetto on Sunday, beating Sampdoria, 2-0, to go mathematically out of reach with two matches to go in the season. Second-place Inter Milan can only get to 82 points, one fewer than Juventus's current tally of 83. Atalanta, which has significantly outscored Juventus and has a far greater goal differential, and Lazio, the league's other two 2020-2021 Champions League entrants, can only get to 81.
Juventus was only leading Lazio by a single point before its season resumed on June 22, but it did what it needed to do to pull away–helped by Lazio completely falling apart over the last few weeks. In the previous five games before Sunday, Lazio went 0-4-1.
Juve hasn't been its sharpest down the stretch either, losing to AC Milan and drawing Atalanta and Sassuolo in a three-game period in which it uncharacteristically conceded nine times. It bounced back to beat Lazio, though, and effectively ended the title race prior to a hiccup against Udinese that preceded Sunday's clinching effort.
The title is the first domestic championship for manager Maurizio Sarri, who took over for Massimiliano Allegri and steered the club to the same league success that Allegri did in his time as manager. In all, it's the club's all-time record 36th domestic title (it would be the 38th, but two were stripped in 2006 after the Calciopoli scandal that rocked the club).
Juventus, to nobody's surprise, has been led by Cristiano Ronaldo, who hit the 30-goal barrier in what has been his best scoring season in league play since 2015-16. At 35, Ronaldo has remained a goal machine, though his league tally of 31 has undoubtedly been helped by the 12 penalty kicks he converted. It would have been 32 and 13 had he not hit the crossbar on an 89th-minute attempt Sunday.
Ronaldo trails only Lazio's Ciro Immobile, who is on 34 goals (with 14 PKs) after Sunday's hat trick vs. Hellas Verona, as both vie for the league's scoring title. In Juventus's recent win over Lazio, Ronaldo became the only player in history to hit 50 career goals in Serie A, La Liga and the Premier League.
Juventus otherwise relied on its usual cast of characters and tested veterans, with Paulo Dybala re-emerging with an 11-goal campaign to complement Ronaldo's output.
One of the club's biggest signings and gems of last summer's transfer window, center back Matthijs De Ligt, didn't have the dominant season most would have expected from the Ajax product and Dutch star. He did score a great goal vs. Udinese on Thursday, his third of the season. It looked to be a title-winning goal, until Juventus conceded twice, including the decider in stoppage time.
Juventus cannot win the treble, having been eliminated from the Coppa Italia in the semifinals that preceded Serie A's return, but it still holds dreams of a league-Champions League double. Juve must overturn a 1-0 deficit to Lyon in the second leg of the round of 16 next month. If it advances, it will play the winner of Man City-Real Madrid in the quarterfinals in Portugal as part of UEFA's revamped conclusion to the competition.
Juventus has already taken steps to alter the squad for next season, agreeing on what's effectively a player swap with Barcelona, which has Miralem Pjanic going to the Spanish power and Brazilian midfielder Arthur coming to Juve.
Source: Sports Illustrated