By Karl Matchett.
On an eight-game winning streak in Serie A, the reigning title holders and having made up significant ground on the league leaders in the last six weeks, everything is once again looking rosy for Juventus as they prepare for a big second half of the season.
Having started the campaign in atrociously inconsistent form, losing to the likes of Udinese and Sassuolo and taking just five points from their first six games, Juve have since rediscovered their aura of invincibility and have reverted to the 3-5-2 which has previously brought them such success. Though they remain in fourth place in Serie A, the gap to the top is now only three points and the other challengers-Napoli, Fiorentina, Inter Milan-still have such an inconsistency about their results that it's almost certain Juve will go on to win the Scudetto once again.
Juve's defence is rock solid and stacked for depth; quite aside from their three starting Italian centre-backs they also have Daniele Rugani and Martin Caceres, with some of the most effective wing-backs around at their disposal too. It's not defence they need to consider strengthening if they are not only keep their place at the top of the domestic tree but also challenge in Europe again-it's their offensive options.
Paulo Dybala is a huge talent. He'll have games where he might not be effective, of course, as young players tend to do, but by and large he's a great first-choice forward for Juve and will score and create in equal measure. Between Mario Mandzukic, Alvaro Morata and Simone Zaza, Juve don't necessarily have an absolute top-class star, but between them they should certainly provide enough goal threat and differentiation about their game to provide solutions in matches. Again, not a great issue for Juve to worry about right now.
In between those lines is another matter. A first-choice triumvirate of Paul Pogba, Claudio Marchisio and Sami Khedira boasts everything in a technical and physical sense that most teams could hope for, but still more could be done, for this year and beyond. As sad as it may be for Juve fans to hear, Pogba is likely to be off sooner or later, this summer or next, and it's never too early to prepare for that. Hernanes isn't contributing enough, Juan Cuadrado has been marginalised by the system switch and Roberto Pereyra doesn't convince as a top-draw option.
There are, however, other offensive options who both suit Juve's multiple tactical systems and canprovide the quality to get involved immediately.
Real Madrid's Isco has been long linked with a move to Serie A's biggest side and would be a great fit. In a 3-5-2 he could be the attacking midfielder, in a 4-3-3 he could play from wide and in a 4-4-2 diamond he's able to play off the front or as one of the wider options in the central midfield zone. Technically adept, classy and not guaranteed as first choice at his current club, Isco has been declared "not for sale" by new boss Zinedine Zidane-but if he doesn't play in the next few games, that doesn't necessarily have to stay the case. Isco wants to play, and go to the Euros.
In Germany, Mario Gotze is in a reasonably similar position.
The Bayern Munich playmaker hasn't been able to nail down a settled spot under Pep Guardiola, playing a range of positions and often being utilised as a substitute to change the game, rather than a regular trusted starter. He has little more than a year left on his contract and has already been linked with a run of big clubs including Liverpool-but with Guardiola set to depart in summer, will Gotze be happy to move now? Or be prepared to wait and see what Carlo Ancelotti has in mind for him after this season?
Those two options must be considered the top possibilities for Juventus, giving their status in Europe, their financial level and the availability in January of the biggest names.
That said, there are a couple of alternatives that Juventus could consider, especially on a more short-term level for one who they have been linked with before: Adnan Januzaj, who has just returned to Manchester United after a failed loan spell with Borussia Dortmund. The United youngster clearly has talent, but wouldn't be anything like an automatic first pick at Juve either, rather an option to change games up off the bench.
Leroy Sane and Josip Ilicic, of Schalke and Fiorentina respectively, would be further considerations to impact both this season and beyond for Juve.
The Turin side don't have to do anything but continue to show resilience, resolve and consistency to take Serie A by storm once again and win yet another domestic title, but if they want to push on and challenge Europe's biggest sides into the latter stages of the Champions League once again, a top attacking talent such as these is where Mass Allegri needs to look during January.