Come the end of Sunday’s schedule of Serie A games, we’ll be without our beloved Juventus for two weeks. Yes, two long weeks of an international break that will probably stir up the same kind of transfer rumors we’ve heard about ever since June and July. Hey, did you hear the one about Leonardo Bonucci and Manch...okay, I’ll stop right there.
Juventus has one more game before the latest two-week international break arrives and immediately threatens to bore the living hell out of us all. And because the good folks who run the Serie A schedule are mostly wonderful, wonderful people who love us, they’ve thrown Juventus a possibly-tricky lunchtime kickoff fixture in Tuscany against Empoli.
Yes, this the same Empoli side that is entering the weekend sitting in 19th place in a 20-team league. The same Empoli side that has collected only four points through the first six games of the season. And the same Empoli side that already has the second-worst goal differential in all of Italy’s top flight.
By my calculations, that’s not very good.
That also means that even though Juventus will be playing in their third straight game away from the friendly confines of Juventus Stadium, they will be the heavy favorites to go into the aforementioned international break with another victory to their name.
The on-again, off-again ways of Juventus this early season has been on full display plenty of times before. For as good as Juve were in Tuesday night’s 4-0 win over Dinamo Zagreb, they were equally as impotent last weekend against Palermo. One game was a quality team showing, the other one was a complete snoozer. You can probably figure out which is which. You’re all very smart.
So we await to see which Juventus side will truly show up. There’s no denying the kind of gulf in quality that will be between themselves and their opponents during lunchtime on Sunday afternoon. We’ll have enough time to re-hash all of those whacky rumors over the next two weeks. For now, however, I’m just sitting here and hoping that the Juventus we see resembles the one that was in Zagreb, not the one that never really got out of first gear at the Renzo Barbera.
Yeah, considering where Juventus is in the table and where Empoli is, I think it’s safe to say that anything other than three points would be considered disappointing.
Don’t disappoint us, Juventus. Nobody wants to be grumpy going into the international break. There’s enough BS that comes with that period of time anyway.
Remember how kind of hot and cold Juventus’ performances have been in recent weeks? Well, the last time Juventus played, Tuesday against Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League, was certainly one of those good showings. More of that, please.
Also good news? Apparently the lunchtime kickoff isn’t a big deal for Juventus teams of the past.
Injured player roll call!
- Claudio Marchisio
- Daniele Rugani
- Kwadwo Asamoah
- Medhi Benatia
See? No matter what the season, injuries continue to be stupid.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Can Paulo Dybala build off his big game in Zagreb?
I’ve already talked about Dybala quite a bit over the last couple of days, but that’s okay simply because it is Paulo Dybala. When you score a goal like he did against Dinamo Zagreb, you deserve to be talked about. Now, with Dybala’s goal-scoring duck being eliminated from discussion, it’s now about building off what was easily one of his best performances of the young season. We saw last season that when Dybala started to get the ball rolling things really got good in a hurry. Dybala’s hot streaks carried Juventus through the rebound from the early-season struggles and then the midseason resurgence. Now, we wait to see what results out of this first goal of the season for Dybala. He’s hoping it’s the start of something really, really good. And so are we.
2. Hernanes at the center of Juventus’ midfield.
A newspaper columnist I’m quite a fan of has a simple way of evaluating things: Praise when it’s deserved, criticize when it’s deserved. So, with that being said, there’s something that needs to be thrown out there. For all the crap we have given him in his 14 months as a Juventus player, this is by far the best string of performances Hernanes has put together since arriving last summer. Those massive mistakes he’s made in the past haven’t been there, he’s been able to play calm and collected ball, contributing to things when given the opportunity. And because of that, he’s been given more playing time and is expected to start a third consecutive game when Juve takes the field against Empoli on Sunday. Based on how he’s playing right now, I’m not exactly going to be objecting to it. You play well, you’re probably going to get more playing time. And when you’re playing well, it doesn’t matter who you are, you’re going to have some new fans coming you’re direction.
3. How many Brazilians will be playing as wingbacks?
Unlike in the Champions League, Allegri has all four — or five if you want to throw Juan Cuadrado into the mix — wingback options available to him. That means making choices. There may not be an exact rotation that we’ve figured out yet, but the thing that seems to be the most likely of all is that Alex Sandro is going to be starting on the left wing. That may be especially true with Patrice Evra getting the start midweek against Dinamo Zagreb. On the right wing, it’s more up in the air. There could be the same midweek kind of thing with Dani Alves and Stephan Lichtsteiner. And considering that Alves has been handling the brunt of the playing time as of late and Lichtsteiner hasn’t appeared in a game since the loss to Inter in the Derby d’Italia two weeks ago, Allegri may feel like it’s time for the latter to get some playing time. That would be cool when you factor in that the drop off between the two may well be non-existent.
4. Can Juventus extend Empoli’s offensive struggles?
Through six games, Empoli has scored all of two goals. I don’t call myself an expert on this whole thing even though I do happen to run a blog, but I am going to go out on a limb and say that’s not very good. (Survey says ‘Not very good.’) You combine that with the fact that Juventus has been Serie A’s stingiest defense this season and you would think that good things are going to happen, right? Well, yeah, we hope so. When you match a team that has struggled to find the back of the net up against Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, there’s usually an easy pick as to who is going to win that battle.
MY STARTING LINEUP
Juventus XI (3-5-2): Gianluigi Buffon; Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini; Dani Alves, Sami Khedira, Hernanes, Miralem Pjanic, Alex Sandro; Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala
Location: Stadio Carlo Castellani, Empoli, Italy
Kick-off time: 12:30 p.m. local time in Italy; 11:30 a.m. in England; 6:30 a.m. on the East Coast; 3:30 a.m. on the West Coast
TV: Rai International (United States); RAI International (Canada); BT Sport 3 (United Kingdom); Sky Supercalcio HD, Sky Calcio 1 (Italy)
Online: fuboTV, beIN SPORTS CONNECT U.S.A. (United States); beIN SPORTS CONNECT Canada (Canada): BT Sport Live Streaming (United Kingdom); SKY Go Italia (Italy)
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