Let me take you back 12 months or so. Juventus had a crap August, September and October. Over time time period, we questioned what the hell was going with the club and how they were playing on plenty of occasions. The fact that there was still around three-quarters of the Serie A season left to be played. Juve were essentially a team in disarray, with, as I said on more than a handful of times the first two months of the 2015-16 season, the only consistent thing about them being their inconsistent play.
It was around this time last year where Juventus started to kick things into gear. That resulted in a rise up the table that few seasons have ever seen before. From just outside the relegation zone, to 14th, to 12th, to 10th, into a European spot and then to the very top. It was fast — almost like Juventus had rocket boosters attached to the back of their brand new adidas jerseys and away they went.
We sit here, 12 months after the start of that move in a little bit of a different situation. Not necessarily where the team is playing because, as we know, Juve has been in first place from the first day of the season onward. But it’s more to do with the fact that we sit here on the eve of the first game back from the November international break and Juventus’ quality of play is widely uninspiring. They’re getting results for the most part, but it’s not like we’re sitting here and being wowed by how the team is playing each and every time out.
It has been a few years since we last saw Pescara make its way to Juventus Stadium. The last time the Delfini rolled into Turin, it was just a few short weeks before they went down to Serie B and were left to fight to get back into Italy’s top flight for the next couple of seasons.
The starting lineup in Pescara’s last visit to Juventus Stadium?
Marco Storari, Leonardo Bonucci, Luca Marrone, Federico Peluso, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba, Emanuele Giaccherini, Kwadwo Asamoah, Mirko Vucinic, Sebastian Giovinco
Three of those players from that starting lineup are still around, with Bonucci probably the only one that has a future with Juventus beyond this season or the next one.
Just, for the record, this also happened in Pescara’s last visit to Juventus Stadium...
You’re welcome for the reminder. I know you all wanted to see that midway through the first match preview back from the international break.
/checks Serie A standings/
Nope, Pescara aren’t very good at all!
Enjoy playing a team that could very well be relegated because in a couple of days, Juventus are going to be facing a Sevilla team that is in some kind of good form right now. And it’s the Champions League, so you know that means two hours of anything close to fun.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Is this the game where we get to #MakeSomeMoise?
I was feeling optimistic that this was going to be the game that Allegri let Moise Kean loose in the starting lineup. I really, really was. And then we had this quote at Allegri’s pre-match press conference.
Oh. What this tells me is that even though Higuain has gone halfway around the world and only trained a couple of times since returning to Italy, he’s starting on Saturday night. No rest because of a short turnaround after international duty, no rest because of an incredibly important game coming up on Tuesday against Sevilla.
If Allegri wants to play his top dogs, so be it. But if there was ever a chance to both give Kean his debut and give Juve’s €90 million man a day off, playing one of the worst teams in the league seemed like the right kind of situation.
2. Who plays on the right wing, Juan Cuadrado or Stephan Lichtsteiner?
We know Dani Alves is going to have the weekend off because Allegri has told us so — which makes me a little confused considering Higuain was coming from the same part of the world on international duty. Anyway, that leaves us with two options, Lichtsteiner and Cuadrado. A lot of this will probably depend on the formation Allegri goes with. At the same press conference, Allegri was very complimentary of Lichtsteiner, who hasn’t exactly been playing all that great in his last few appearances. Based on simple form alone, then I’d definitely give the nod to Cuadrado because it seems like every time he’s been on the field this season he’s made some kind of impact that has led to Juventus being successful. But as much as my head tells me Cuadrado should be the one that plays if Allegri goes 3-5-2, my guy is saying that it’s Lichtsteiner who gets the start and Cuadrado playing some kind of role off the bench.
3. Does Allegri rest anybody ahead of the Sevilla showdown?
Considering that one game outweighs the other in terms of importance, I certainly hope so. I have no doubts that a Juventus squad half full of reserves is more than capable of beating a club like Pescara. And if that last sentence is a hint that I’m hoping somebody like Claudio Marchisio or Sami Khedira doesn’t see the field against the Delfini, then you’re definitely on the right track. A lot of the predicted lineups out there seem to have a lot of regular names on the field outside of the names missing in defense due to injury. I don’t really know what direction Allegri is actually going to go mainly because he’s actually been somewhat open about who’s potentially playing against Pescara. It could be the truth. It could be a diversion away from what his actual plans are. There are a decent amount of lineup decisions that are being made for him because of the injury situation. Others, though, will have us waiting until the starting lineups come out an hour before kickoff on Saturday night
4. Can Miralem Pjanic continue to find form?
There weren’t a lot of memorable moments in Juve’s 2-1 win over Chievo on the day before the international break, but Pjanic’s free kick that proved to be the game-winning goal definitely stuck out from the pack. If he’s that dialed in with his free kicks like he was at the Bentegodi, then you hope the rest of his game is quick to follow. We all know that he hasn’t been the Roma version of Pjanic so far. He’s had some good moments, but he’s also had some bad moments. But Allegri has made it clear about what Juventus’ goals are when the holiday break arrives in late-December — be atop the Serie A table, be in the Champions League knockout stage and win the Super Cup next month. Big-time players need to play big roles in big games. And there’s no doubting that if Juve want to kick things into gear, then Pjanic will have to really hit his stride and become a consistent performer in Juve’s midfield the next couple of weeks. (And months, and months, and so on...)
MY STARTING LINEUP
Juventus XI (3-5-2): Gianluigi Buffon; Daniele Rugani, Leonardo Bonucci, Patrice Evra; Juan Cuadrado, Mario Lemina, Hernanes, Miralem Pjanic, Alex Sandro; Gonzalo Higuain, Moise Kean
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 Supercalcio HD, Sky Calcio 1, Sky Sport 1 HD Italia (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)
Other live viewing options can be found here, and as always, you can also follow along with us live and all the stupid things we say on Twitter. If you haven't already, join the community on Black & White & Read All Over, and join in the discussion below.
And don't forget to like our new page on Facebook, either!