The 2017-18 edition of Juventus now has one official league game under its belt. It was a good game, too, with Juve cruising to a 3-0 win over Cagliari to ring in the Allianz Stadium era in relative style. (I’m still thinking of Miralem Pjanic’s pass to Paulo Dybala. It was so pretty. Just so, so pretty.)
Juventus continues the opening weeks of their schedule with their first away game of the season, heading to the always-difficult stadium known as the Luigi Ferraris to face Genoa on Saturday night. However, we have this little thing to say: You better get your fix now, though, people. Because when the second round of Serie A action comes to an end on Sunday night, calcio won’t be around for another two weeks with the first international break of the season arriving.
We say it every single year, but we’ll say it again: Two weeks in and then there’s an international break? What a tease.
But even with the less-than-desirable timing of the first international break of the year, there is a game to be played.
Genoa have been a thorn in the side of Juventus in recent years — and that’s especially true when thinking of games played away from Turin. The last three meetings between the two clubs at the Ferraris, Genoa have won two of them. That’s something that very few clubs can say when facing Juventus period, let alone when they’re playing on their home turf.
So while Juventus tries to squash a little bit of their recent Ferraris demons, it will also be a second chance for them to show us that the preseason — and the loss to Lazio in the Supercoppa — was a total misrepresentation of their quality.
We sat through a solid showing against Cagliari, which continued to show everything that the whole “allowing the most goals ever in a single season in club history” thing wasn’t just some fluke. Now we get to see what Juventus can do against a Genoa team that had its own amount of struggles last season — finishing just four points above the relegation zone — and started out the new campaign with a scoreless draw against Sassuolo last Sunday.
I guess if we’re going to acknowledge the international break, we might as well hope that Juventus are heading into it with another three points in hand and starting the season a perfect 2-for-2 in Serie A. That does sound pretty nice to me. Same with Juve playing well and getting three points, but I know I can be greedy sometimes.
Juventus won their first Serie A game of the season. That’s good.
Claudio Marchisio played very well last weekend. Now he’s out for a month. This is why we can’t have nice things all the time.
Also, this: The first international break of every is horribly timed. We all know that. And yet, every year we see it arrive just as we start to really get involved in the season that just began.
Well, more transfer rumors come Sunday, I guess...
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1) Max Allegri has stick with Daniele Rugani in the starting lineup ... right?
When reports started coming out in the hours leading up to Saturday’s season opener that Rugani was going to be starting alongside Giorgio Chiellini, I would like to think that a lot of us around here had a thought it might have been too good to be true knowing how these things work.
And then Rugani was there, in the starting lineup, playing next to Chiellini and looking a lot like he has for the vast majority of his short Juventus career.
Rugani did nothing to tell Allegri that he wasn’t ready to step into a starting role. And while I understand Allegri’s point at the pre-match press conference about having four center backs and they will all be playing important parts this season, this isn’t the time to slow-play Rugani into the starting lineup. It’s becoming more and more clear with each passing game that he is the best option to be starting next to Chiellini more often than not. Some of that has to do with how Andrea Barzagli and Medhi Benatia have looked in the preseason, but it’s also the work Rugani has done both this season and during his runs of consistent playing time the last couple of years.
He has been tipped as the future of both the Juve and Italy defense for a decent amount of time now. It’s time for him to get that chance.
That’s Rugani celebrating after last Saturday’s win over Cagliari. Seeing him at the center of future celebrations — as well of Juventus’ defense — is something I think a lot of us can get used to seeing for the next, oh, decade or so.
2) Max Allegri can’t stick with Juan Cuadrado in the starting lineup ... right?
We know what we’re getting into when it comes to Cuadrado. He’s a bucket full of inconsistency and frustration wrapped into a player who has plenty of talent.
But in Juventus’ first two meaningful games of the season, Cuadrado has been ... not very good.
I understand that Cuadrado is a favorite of Allegri. I get that with Mario Mandzukic on the other wing you’d probably lean toward an offense-first kind of winger. And I also know that Allegri is usually slow-playing the full-on integration of new attacking players into the starting lineup. The thing is, though, when you have a player who is so hit-or-miss like Cuadrado is, then you are relying on him to boom when he’s more than likely going to bust.
(I hope that made sense.)
Allegri said he wasn’t sure if he was going to be playing Douglas Costa from the start against Genoa, which could be a hint that Cuadrado won’t be starting on Saturday. And it’s not like Mandzukic did anything against Cagliari to say that he’s not worthy of keeping his place in the starting lineup this week.
But with Costa and Federico Bernardeschi getting more and more acclimated to their new surroundings, the clock may be ticking on Cuadrado’s time as a relative lock to be a starter. The way he’s played this season, that might not exactly be a bad thing.
3) Paulo Dybala’s second Serie A game in the No. 10 jersey.
Games played in the No. 10: 1
Goals scored in the No. 10: 1
I’d say that’s a pretty good ratio when it comes to Dybala’s goal scoring tally.
It’s an impossible pace to keep up. I love Dybala as much as the next person, but I have a pretty feeling we won’t be sitting here during the final weeks of the season talking about him pushing 40 goals on the season.
But to say he didn’t impress last week would be a total understatement. He was one of Juve’s better players in the preseason and he’s taken that right into the games that mean something now. He seemed to have a little extra pep in his step against Cagliari, too. How much of that was just wanting to ball out on the opening day of the season or because of the new — and deserved — jersey number we don’t really know, but Dybala certainly meant business last weekend.
Now we get to see what he can do in his second outing of the year as Juventus’ No. 10. It fits him pretty well — and that’s even before he went out and got himself a double within five minutes to pull Juve even in the Supercoppa or opened his Serie A account last weekend.
MY STARTING XI
Juventus XI (4-2-3-1): Gianluigi Buffon; Stephan Lichtsteiner, Daniele Rugani, Giorgio Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Claudio Marchisio, Miralem Pjanic; Federico Bernardeschi, Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic; Gonzalo Higuain
Location: Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genoa, 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: BT Sport Extra (United Kingdom); Sky Sport 1 HD Italia (Italy)
Online/Mobile: fuboTV, beIN SPORTS CONNECT U.S.A. (United States); beIN SPORTS CONNECT Canada (Canada); SKY Go Italia (Italy)
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