Juventus should shelve all talk of a fifth consecutive scudetto, said goalkeeper and captain Gianluigi Buffon after a latest Serie A reverse left them at risk of slipping 13 points behind leaders Inter Milan.
From the highs of reaching the Champions League final last season, when the Turin giants sealed a first league and Cup double in 20 years, Juventus have returned to earth with a bump.
With just five points from their five opening games, Juve’s woes deepened on Saturday when they were outplayed in a 2-1 defeat at Napoli where Lorenzo Insigne and Gonzalo Higuain were on target.
The Turin giants now sit in 15th place at 10 points behind Inter, who could stretch their lead to 13 points if they beat Fiorentina later Sunday.
They are also just two points above the relegation zone.
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For Buffon, all talk of winning the title has to take a back seat until the Bianconeri find the “balance” in the squad that has been lacking since it underwent significant changes in the summer.
“We have to put aside all talk of the scudetto for the next few months,” Buffon said in an interview with Sky Sport Italia.
“The distance (between Juventus and the top of the league) is so great that we can’t allow ourselves to get carried away by flights of fancy.
“We have to roll up our sleeves, get our hands dirty and deal with the situation. We know what we need to change to improve, and we’ll be taking it now match by match.”
After the huge success of last season, and despite defeat to Barcelona in the Champions League final, Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri saw his side undergo huge changes in the summer.
Only four key players — midfielders Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal and strikers Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente — departed, but the effect has been seismic.
Juve brought in replacements for Tevez and Llorente, but along with a misfunctioning midfield the goals have been conspicuously absent.
Former Palermo striker Paulo Dybala has yet to settle, Spanish international Alvaro Morata has struggled with injury so far and Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic was recently sidelined for three weeks with a thigh muscle injury.
SEE MORE: Where to find Serie A on US TV and streaming.
Juventus have hit only six goals in six games, nearly half the tally of scudetto rivals Roma (13), four less than minnows Chievo (10) and the same as newcomers Carpi.
Allegri also recruited former Real Madrid star Sami Khedira, former Inter playmaker Hernanes and French upstart Mario Lemina to boost a midfield that is sorely lacking Pirlo and Vidal.
However Khedira is only now ready to play after an injury-plagued start and, amid Juve’s ongoing struggles in midfield, Paul Pogba has done little to suggest he should be considered one of the most sought-after players in the world.
Buffon pledged that Juve, once they “find their identity”, will be back to their best.
But he called for the Bianconeri to put “our foot on the accelerator” in a bid to get out of the slump — starting with Wednesday’s Champions League clash at home to Sevilla.
Two weeks after Morata and Mandzukic were on target in a shock 2-1 win at Manchester City, Juve host Sevilla in the hope their domestic form doesn’t follow them to the stadium.
“When he find our identity and start playing compact football we will become a really strong team,” said Buffon.
“It’s a big challenge but the harder it is, the bigger our joy will be once we get over this period.
“It hasn’t been easy for Allegri, who has had to adapt our playing system to the players we have available.
“But it’s also up to us, the players, to put our foot on the accelerator.
“The Champions League is a beautiful showcase, and it’s now a chance for us to regain a certain degree of certainty and enthusiasm.
“We need a ferocious, determined approach to Sevilla. It’s a game we want to win.”
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