We’ve already sat here a handful of times before following a frustrating Juventus result this season. It’s not exactly what we envisioned when the first Serie A game arrived toward the end of the August, but it’s the reality. Juventus are picking up wins, sure, but when you try and evaluate the greater value of their performances, it’s certainly leaving a lot to be desired.
We sit here on the even of another international break with Juventus atop the league table. Although, because of that annoying loss to Milan where Vincenzo Montella dide his best to make Max Allegri look like a fool, the lead over Roma is all of four points. That’s not much, but it’s also a figure where, no matter what Juventus does against Chievo at the Bentegodi on Sunday afternoon, the reigning Serie A champs won’t lose their spot atop the table.
But what we’re left with is to try to avoid penning the same narrative that we’ve done a decent number of times already this season. Yes, Juventus are trying to bounce back after a tough outing the game before. I know it, you know, we all know it. It’s one of the unfortunate somewhat-ever-present things we’ve seen happen to Juve over the last couple of months. Play well for a game or two, struggle for a game or two, then fall somewhere in the middle.
I sit here, on the fifth day of November, not knowing which Juventus squad will show up from one game to the next. We probably said the same thing last season when Juve were off to that rousing start in Serie A where they were hovering in the middle of the table around the time the little kids went out to get some candy on Halloween. At least in terms of Juve’s spot in the table, it’s different this season, which is nice. But Juve’s wild inconsistencies are yet to be resolved, yet to be a thing of the past.
Now, the Serie A leaders get a shot at a Chievo team that is anything but playing well, having won just one game in their last six and in the middle of the jumble of teams from seventh to 17th that is within three points of one another.
This is how Allegri described the meeting with Chievo at his pre-match press conference on Saturday afternoon:
"On paper, there aren't many sides in worse form than Chievo at the moment, especially after they were defeated by Crotone last time out, but that doesn’t mean it will be an easy match for us. Undoubtedly, they will be looking to bounce back straight away and there’s no better time for them to do that than at home in front of their own supporters against the league leaders.”
Bounce back straight away after a tough result? I wonder where I’ve heard that before...
As much as you have a fondness for 1-0 wins and grinding out results, Max, I sure would love a 4-0 win that sees us happy and not stressed to the ... max. But that’s just me.
The Serie A table says Juventus is in first place and leads Roma by four points. That’s good, right? Yes, even with all of the frustration this club causes us to deal with on a regular basis, that’s good.
Well, Juve just tossed away the chance to seal their spot in the Champions League knockout rounds with two games to go, but other than that things are great.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Will Moise Kean get the surprise start to give Juventus a jumpstart?
No. Next question.
2. Will the four-man defense stick around for a second straight game?
No. Next...okay, I’ll actually talk about this one.
Juventus will have three healthy defenders when they face Chievo on Sunday. Giorgio Chiellini is out (again). Leonardo Bonucci, after being subbed off injured against Lyon, is called up but his starting status is anything but certain at this point. Does that mean Allegri is going to, say, play a four-man backline because he’ll have a central defender on the bench just in case something else happens injury-wise? I’m not going to bet my life’s savings on it in all likelihood. We’ve had that line of thinking before and then, when starting lineups are announced, the 3-5-2 is hitting us in the face as it announces its presence once more. The return to the three-man backline is what those in Vegas call the heavy favorite or the leader in the clubhouse. It’s pretty obvious that, as long as players are injured and options are limited that Allegri will go with what the team knows rather than trying to seriously shake things up. Maybe it’s just because an international break is almost here and we’re about to be without Juventus for two weeks, but big tactical changes just seem unlikely at this point. Sorry to disappoint.
3. Daniele Rugani (likely) stepping into starting defense.
So, the 3-5-2 is probably back, and that means somebody will be anchoring the center of the defense. If Bonucci isn’t able to go — which seems likely at this point — then Andrea Barzagli will probably step into the center of the three-man backline. Same goes for the natural and logical Medhi Benatia in for Giorgio Chiellini swap. That leaves Daniele Rugani to fill the one open space in the defense. And considering that we haven’t seen the young Italian defender since he got injured against Palermo at the end of September, I’m all for it. We saw Rugani really start to settle in when he got regular playing time in the second half of last season. And with Chiellini struggling to stay fit on a regular basis as well as Benatia’s injury history over the last couple of years, Rugani is certainly going to see playing time if he himself is able to avoid the injury bug. He does that, he will play — especially if Allegri sticks with the 3-5-2 more often than not. The playing time Rugani gets at this age is always going to be valuable. So when Chiellini suffers his next injury — because you know it’s going to happen sooner later unfortunately — let’s just hope Rugani is getting playing time as a result.
4. Can Gonzalo Higuain continue to trend toward hitting really good form?
Yes, his couple of missed chances against Lyon made me grumpy as well and could have prevented Juve from what ended up happening, but Higuain we saw at the beginning of the season is starting to show his face once again. (And no fat jokes either this time.)
That’s a pretty good start to a Juventus career, if I do say so myself. And considering how Juventus have been up and down form-wise lately, the more Higuain is for the better, methinks. The last few games have been different not only because he’s scoring goals again. Higuain, the definition of a prima punta, has been paired with another big striker in Mario Mandzukic thanks to Paulo Dybala’s injury, which will keep the baby-faced Argentine out until after the international break. The results, both in terms of the pairing itself and Juventus in general, have been mixed. But I guess it’s not as bad as I thought it might be. Manduzkic has worked his tail off since returning to the starting lineup. And when it comes to Higuain, the goals are being scored again. Simple as it seems, that’s exactly why he was signed, folks. So if he’s scoring goals and helping Juventus pick up points, that’s the simplest of objectives right there.
MY STARTING LINEUP
Juventus XI (3-5-2): Gianluigi Buffon; Daniele Rugani, Andrea Barzagli, Medhi Benatia; Juan Cuadrado, Sami Khedira, Hernanes, Mario Lemina, Alex Sandro; Gonzalo Higuain, Mario Mandzukic
Location: Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi, Verona, Italy
Kick-off time: 3 p.m. local time in Italy; 2 p.m. in England; 9 a.m. on the East Coast; 6 a.m. on the West Coast
TV: beIN SPORTS USA (United States); beIN Sports Canada (Canada); BT Sport 2 (United Kingdom); PremiumSport 2 HD, Sky Calcio 1 (Italy)
Online: beIN SPORTS CONNECT U.S.A., fuboTV (United States); beIN SPORTS CONNECT Canada, fuboTV Canada (Canada); BT Sport Live Streaming (United Kingdom); TIMVision Live Streaming, SKY Go Italia (Italy)
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