Saturday brought us a second Serie A loss, a lot of frustration against another Milan club and another reminder that Juventus aren’t exactly playing up to their lofty potential. Coming out of that loss, one where Max Allegri was completely outmatched by Vincenzo Montella, there could be to ways to look at things.
The good side: Juventus won’t have to see either of the Milan teams until early February. And both of those games in the second half of the season will be played at Juventus Stadium, not at the San Siro.
The bad side: Juventus, despite being atop the Serie A table, hasn’t truly hit the stride we’ve all been waiting for them to hit all season long.
We’ve basically reached the middle of the seven-games-in-three-weeks stretch that Max Allegri was warning us about right out of the international break. A lot of games, not much time for rest. That’s really nothing new. We’ve seen Juventus player, we’ve seen them play not so well, we’ve seen them play somewhere in between. For as much as I, and probably some other people, are happy that this season isn’t starting like 12 months earlier simply from a results basis, the overall up-and-down nature of Juve’s performances aren’t exactly awe inspiring to say the least.
So now, with Sampdoria coming to Turin for a rare midweek Serie A clash, Juventus try to lift themselves off the bat once again after a frustrating loss at the San SIro. It’s the chance to get right against a team that up until its win over city rival Genoa in the Derby della Lanterna this past weekend hadn’t won a game since the last weekend in August. Mind you, it’s not like Genoa had been lighting the world on fire, either, but Samp’s struggles this season had seen them go from 2 for 2 to open the season to tumbling down the Serie A table in a relatively short period of time after the first international break.
As much as the Milan loss was a pile of flaming frustration, the guy does make a point.
Juventus don’t have to go to the San Siro again this season in Serie A! Yay!
It seems as though we won’t be seeing this young man’s smiling face on the field for the next couple of weeks because of a stupid hamstring injury.
Here’s your latest reminder that injuries are stupid and need to go away for the rest of time. Well, at least ones that happen to Juventus players. (Yes, I’m biased.)
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Is this the game we get to see Claudio Marchisio?
For the last couple of league games, we’ve seen Marchisio called up, warm up yet doing nothing more than that. Well, unless you want to call cheering his teammates on and looking handsome on the bench, then that’s something. But other than that, Marchisio has seemingly been a spectator and not much more. It was pretty safe to assume that Marchisio was never going to play 90 minutes three times a week right away knowing the kind of injury he was coming off of. And based on the fact that he still hasn’t made an appearance, it’s obvious that Allegri is going to be slow-playing this — which is probably to the liking to some folks who didn’t want there any worries of Marchisio being rushed or anything close to it. But this is an opponent who is sitting 15th in the table and has won just one game since the month of September began. Even if it’s a 10-minute cameo with Juve up a couple of goals, it sure would be nice to see Marchisio step onto that Juventus Stadium field and hear the ovation that will come his way.
So you’re saying there’s a chance, Max...
2. Can Mario Mandzukic and Gonzalo Higuain co-exist up front?
We don’t know much about the parts of Juve’s formation, but we do know that it will be a ‘2’ up front against Sampdoria tomorrow night. Why? Because Max told us...
So, there’s that, which kinda kills the whole #AnyButMandzukic+Higuain movement we had going in the ‘You choose the lineup’ thread. Considering that options, I guess it makes sense that Allegri is going to go with the only two senior strikers he has available to him. As much as we want to see Moise Kean — and there’s going to be more on that later — Allegri has shown that he’s not going to throw the youngster into the deep end just yet. But the thing to come out of Dybala’s injury is that now the only two strikers that Allegri has available to him are the same kind of player. You look and there’s a prima punta here, there’s a prima punta there and nothing else. They’re not exactly like-for-like, but a Dybala-Higuain partnership certainly offers different things compared to a Mandzukic-Higuain tandem. Maybe we will see Juve sending more crosses into the box against Sampdoria to try and take advantage of having two aerial threats up front. At the very least, we know who’s starting there, so I guess there’s that.
3. Is this the game we get to see Moise Kean?
Juventus are down to two healthy senior squad strikers, Higuain and Mandzukic. Kean is certainly going to be called up for a third straight time in Serie A and fourth overall if you included Juve’s trip to France in the Champions League last week. The general knee-jerk reaction after a loss or when a team is struggling for consistent form is to scream from the mountain tops that primavera kids need to be brought up because “Hey! it can’t get any worse, right?!” Okay, well, we’re not entirely to that point yet. But here’s the thing: Say Juan Cuadrado starts, the only attacking option Allegri is going to have off the bench will be Kean. Now, it’s possible that Allegri didn’t want the big-game atmosphere to be where Kean gets thrown into the fire and maybe a little more low key of a league fixture could be the place where the 16-year-old striker gets his first senior squad appearance. Either way, As the number of senior squad strikers that are healthy gets smaller and smaller, the reasons to not play Kean pretty much does the same thing.
4. Neto stepping in for Gigi Buffon in goal.
According to reports and then subsequently Allegri at his pre-match press conference, yep, Neto getting the start against Sampdoria is a go. That begs the question: How rusty will Neto be when he does step onto the field from the opening whistle for the first time this season? He has shown, while his appearances have been sporadic and nothing close to consistent outside of the final few games of the season a year ago, to be relatively solid in goal. The lack of appearances has caused his agent to come out and chirp in the press a little bit about Neto’s future at Juventus. But when you have a backup goalkeeper play all of 45 minutes of game time in the first two months of the season like Neto has, the fact that he hasn’t seen much action is always going to be a potential issue. (So don’t do anything stupid on Wednesday night, Neto.)
MY STARTING LINEUP
Juventus XI (3-5-2): Neto; Medhi Benatia, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini; Juan Cuadrado, Mario Lemina, Claudio Marchisio, Miralem Pjanic, Alex Sandro; Mario Mandzukic, Gonzalo Higuain
Location: Juventus Stadium, Turin, Italy
Kick-off time: 8:45 p.m. local time in Italy; 7:45 p.m. in England; 2:45 p.m. on the East Coast; 11:45 a.m. on the West Coast
TV: RAI International (United States); RAI International (Canada); BT Sport 3 (United Kingdom); Sky Calcio 1 (Italy)
Online: beIN SPORTS CONNECT U.S.A., fuboTV (United States); beIN Sports CONNECT Canada (Canada); BT Sport Live Streaming (United Kingdom); SKY Go Italia (Italy)
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