There is no real expectations when it comes to preseason friendlies — especially the first one. The team has only been training for a couple of weeks, even fewer amount of days as a full group due to various international team commitments. It’s pretty much the same kind of situation every summer that so many high-level European coaches have to deal with and something that can throw a little bit of a wrinkle into preseason preparations.
And then you saw the starting lineup Max Allegri rolled out.
Shockingly, a very meh starting lineup didn’t play all that well against a still somewhat full-strength Barcelona on Saturday night in New Jersey. It’s almost like having Stefano Sturaro match up against Neymar on one wing is a supreme advantage for one team and not the other, huh? But that is what the folks at MetLife Stadium got to see.
So it goes. Neymar did Neymar things, scoring a first half brace and making the right side of the Juventus lineup look like absolute fools at times.
But let’s not freak out just yet because Neymar made Juve’s mostly second-string lineup look a fool.
- Arguably both of Juventus’ best central defenders weren’t starting.
- Both of Juventus’ projected starting fullbacks, Mattia De Sciglio and Alex Sandro, didn’t start, either.
- Sturaro and Lemina playing as two of the three in the 4-2-3-1 was just freakin’ hilarious.
- Douglas Costa didn’t start. Paulo Dybala didn’t start. Gonzalo Higuain didn’t start. Miralem Pjanic didn’t start.
- You probably get the point by now.
- But here’s one more point: Most importantly, it’s July 22nd.
As much as it’s the whole “OH MY GOD IT’S JUVENTUS PLAYING BARCELONA” effect, this isn’t the same Juventus we’ll see come February, March and April. Hell, knowing who started and who will be added in the coming days, this isn’t the same Juventus we’ll see come the start of the Serie A season next month.
Yeah, Juventus didn’t play all that well at all. And yeah, Neymar made Stephan Lichtsteiner, Medhi Benatia and Andrea Barzagli look really, really bad on the second of his two first-half goals, but this is the first time that Juventus has taken the field together in almost two months. There is going to be flashes of potential, but there’s also going to be struggles because it’s the early goings of the preseason.
We saw both on Saturday night in New Jersey — especially when Allegri brought on the big boys up front — and that’s perfectly okay. That’s just the reality of the situation this time of year. I’d rather Juve look great in the late stages of the Champions League than be a juggernaut in the International Champions Cup.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Juventus’ new home kits looked really good when they were first released. They now look even better after seeing the players actually wear them in a game.
- However, there’s also this: Rolando Mandragora’s last name is so long that it doesn’t fit on the wall of black on the back of Juve’s jersey. We’ve officially found a design flaw.
- Seeing where Rodrigo Bentancur was a standout for Uruguay at the Under-20 World Cup, Allegri using his as a makeshift winger was ... interesting. I hope that it’s more of a July preseason experiment rather than something that could actually be in the cards for a player who could develop into something very special as a holding midfielder.
- Anybody else get a little shot of adrenaline when Allegri rolled out the five-man substitution that included Douglas Costa, Dybala, Higuain, Alex Sandro and Juan Cuadrado? Because I did.
- Dybala’s first action in the game involved making his defender, Sergio Busquets, look like an absolute fool. Welcome to the party, Paulo.
- That first exchange between Douglas Costa and Dybala on the left flank almost resulted in a goal. I can get used to that for the next, oh, five or six years. (Although Paulo scoring the chance would be okay, too.)
- Giorgio Chiellini and Luis Suarez subbed on at the same time to begin the second half. heh.
- We have an updated stat for all of our readers: With Neymar recording both of Barcelona’s first-half goals, Lionel Messi still hasn’t scored a goal on Gigi Buffon in his career. We are here to provide you with the information that truly matters most.
- I’ll leave you all with this: Claudio Marchisio screaming at Neymar to get up after he made a simple late tackle look like he got shot in the back basically made my day.