As he took the microphone following his team’s 4-1 win over SPAL on Wednesday night, Max Allegri had a warning for his team. To the blind eye, it would have seemed a little odd considering the scoreline. But, for those that tuned in and saw Juve walking the tight rope a little bit against a team that has all of one win to its name this season, the words that came out of Allegri’s mouth proved to be all the more true.
”Today we took a step back compared to Udinese and it won’t be enough to have a good performance against Milan. We are still inconsistent and that isn’t good. Until the 2-0 everything went well then there was the time to better manage ball possession but we made mistake verticalizing and we were distracted on the corner kick. The qualities are so high that they were able to score two goals but to get until the end of the season we cannot have these ups and downs, if not matches become a roulette and that isn’t a good thing. It depends on being focused and the way we manage ball possession, we must stay concentrated on the match.”
(Source: Gianluca Di Marzio)
As you can tell, Mr. Allegri was none too pleased with the overall product his team put out on the field on Wednesday night.
Sure, a 4-1 win extended Juve’s goal tally to an impressive 31 in 10 league games, but one has to ponder a simple question: Why the heck was SPAL ever even allowed to get back into the game, let alone nearly tie it?
Juventus, while back on the right track, still as plenty of kinks to iron out as they head to the San Siro for the first time this season to face the new-look Milan. The defense is still a little shaky, the ability to put teams away not necessarily there all the way and, like Allegri said, Juve’s tendency to live the Serie A version of a high-wire is becoming a little more of a regular thing.
And also like Allegri said, that ain’t gonna fly against Milan.
Maybe the SPAL game will be the thing that snaps this Juventus team into shape. Or maybe it will be the stern talking to their manager gave after the game ... and probably in training as well. All of that remains to be seen. Same goes for whether Milan’s 4-1 win over Chievo, their first victory in five games in all competitions, is the thing that gets them back on track after some massive struggles that has put the heat — rightly or wrongly — on manager Vincenzo Montella.
If there was ever a game for Juventus to fully click, fully get rid of the ills that have hung around over the first two months of the season and fully play up to their potential, I’m pretty sure it would be this one. And the one against Sporting on Tuesday in Portugal. And the one against Barcelona next month.
But first, before the big European fixtures that will be played over the next three or four weeks, Juventus have the chance to do something they didn’t do against Milan last season. That’s to win at the San Siro.
My personal preference is that, yes, Juventus needs to head back to Turin with some points as compared to last year’s visit to the San Siro. That must mean that Max and I are on the same page. At least when it comes to certain things like winning games, maybe not when it comes to what players should be starting matches this days.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Juventus has scored 10 goals in its last two games. I don’t know about you guys, but I would consider that pretty good.
If Juventus can let SPAL hang around for longer than any of us would have liked, I am kinda sorta maybe a lot worried about what could happen if Milan is actually playing up to its potential on Saturday.
Oh yeah, there’s no Leonardo Bonucci reunion because he decided that throwing elbows was the best thing to do to try and help his team win games. Except it’s gotten him suspended, meaning he won’t get to play against his former team until they meet later this season.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1) What the hell this new Milan is all about anyway?
Milan spent a lot of money this summer. A lot of that went toward signing Bonucci, but they revamped their squad in the way that a lot of brand new owners think can instantly work and there will be no transition period. I mean, at one point in late-July, Milan’s summer spending spree’s tab had been run up to a whopping €179 million, and it’s not like they were doing a whole lot of selling in the process.
Having seen Juve revamp its squad and not have it click all at once in September or October, I was a little hesitant to believe the Milan-for-Scudetto hype that so many folks in Italy were eating up like a batch of fresh gelato when we the SBN Italia blog editors were asked about it before the season started.
Now, while the Milan that Juve will face on Saturday at the San Siro, this is the first first-hand chance to see what exactly is going on at Milanello.
Milan has two wins in their last six league games. They’re sitting in eighth place. They’ve scored just two more goals (16) than they’ve allowed (14) through their first 10 league games. That’s ... not what the new owners were thinking of when they shelled out so many millions of euros.
Just like we’re hoping that the wins over Udinese and SPAL are the start of a turning point in terms of how Juventus play, Milan’s hope is that the Chievo victory is their moment of reckoning where things truly begin to improve for the better.
I don’t want that to happen, and I think I’m not the only one thinking along those lines.
2) Giorgio Chiellini is back, so who’s out?
Daniele Rugani, probably.
Dammit all to hell.
But it’s probably true because we can see the trend that Allegri has clearly established through the first two months of the season. Rugani has played against a Udinese team that had struggled likely due to Medhi Benatia being injured, then played with Chiellini being rested as Allegri rotated his defense a little bit.
We haven’t seen Rugani play in a “big” game since Juve beat Fiorentina last month — and even before then his playing time was starting to get reduced. So now, with Juventus about to play Milan, which is undoubtedly a big kind of game regardless of how they’re doing, the sense is that the trend of WHO Rugani plays against doesn’t seem like it will be bucked.
With all of their inconsistencies this season, Milan’s attack might be one of the biggest. Before their win over Chievo where they scored a season-high four goals, they had scored 12 goals in nine games. That’s not great. But there’s obviously potential for more, though, meaning Juve’s defense could very well be under a good amount of pressure.
While Barzagli hasn’t been terrible this season, he hasn’t been his completely world-class best, either. Rugani, even with his mistakes here and there in his last few appearances, is obviously the one who should be starting alongside Chiellini more often than not — and yet he’s not.
But it will likely be Barzagli starting against Milan. And hopefully it won’t make us too, too grumpy on Saturday.
3) Who the heck is going to play on the right wing?
Juan Cuadrado, probably.
But let me just throw this out there.
Douglas Costa is coming off arguably his best game in a Juventus jersey. Federico Bernardeschi scored his second goal in as many starts this season. The way both of them played against SPAL, they certainly each have an argument to not only get some playing time against Milan, but to play from the start at the San Siro.
An argument. That’s about all we can do at this point.
Okay, so it’s probably going to be Cuadrado. My gut is telling me that it will be Cuadrado starting on the right wing with Mario Mandzukic coming back into the starting lineup. I’m not always a fan of my gut. (And that’s not only when I’m trying to fit into old Juventus jerseys from earlier this decade.)
I don’t know when the point will be when Costa and/or Bernardeschi hit the starting lineup on a full-time bases and subsequently receive consistent minutes.
Knowing Allegri, it's understandable why Cuadrado gets preference over FB (system knowledge, work rate). But FB has to start more.— Vittorio Pazzini (@vittoriopazzini) October 25, 2017
I don’t know how many minutes Bernardeschi will get against Milan. It will probably be fewer than 45 knowing how Allegri’s substitution patterns go. But I think we’re starting to see that there’s a little more pressure — at least from the outsiders looking in — for Fede to get more playing time.
MY STARTING XI
Juventus XI (4-2-3-1): Gianluigi Buffon; Stephan Lichtsteiner, Daniele Rugani, Giorgio Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Miralem Pjanic, Sami Khedira; Federico Bernardeschi, Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic; Gonzalo Higuain
Location: Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan, Italy
Kick-off time: 6 p.m. local time in Italy; 5 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 12 p.m. on the East Coast; 9 a.m. on the West Coast
TV: beIN SPORTS USA, Rai Italia America (United States) beIN Sports Canada, Rai Italia America (Canada); BT Sport 3 (United Kingdom); Sky Sport 1 HD Italia, Sky Supercalcio HD, PremiumSport HD, Sky Calcio 1 (Italy)
Online/Mobile: beIN SPORTS CONNECT U.S.A., fuboTV (United States) DAZN Canada, beIN SPORTS CONNECT Canada, fuboTV Canada (Canada); BT Sport Live (United Kingdom); SKY Go Italia, Premium Play (Italy)
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