For me, the most notable element of the Juventus-Barcelona Champions League outing was Stefano Sturaro making his debut at right back. After Mattia de Sciglio went down with an injury — good thing we don’t have trouble in that department at the moment — Juve’s
reliable alive human utility man stepped in to fill the chasm at right back, and pretty much minutes later Barcelona scored. It was only partly Sturaro’s fault, I think, in that it was just cosmically logical — cosmological? No ... that’s something different.
I mean, who isn’t having visions of a perfectly fluid Sturaro-Juan Cuadrado (Cuadraro!?) right flank?
But, insanity aside, did anything good happen?
I’m going to put on my extremely optimistic Kool-Aid-drinking Juve glasses on, and try to come up with some good things.
A good thing: MdS actually was pretty good, right? I mean, that can’t be just me thinking that. His shot at the beginning of the game wasn’t too far off the mark, and it even required a save that the referee missed. He wasn’t caught out of position, really, and he did about as well as anyone could have done facing Barcelona’s still-ridiculous front line. Way to go, kid.
A good thing: Rodrigo Bentancur is going to be special. I feel like everybody’s conception of Max Allegri not wanting to ever play young or new talent was kind of dashed tonight,
A good thing: the first forty minutes. Juventus looked pretty damn good for most of the first half. (Does that ring a bell?) Then Messi did a Messi thing and made a Messi mess of Juve’s messy defense.
Yeah that’s all I got in the “good” department.
A tantalizing collection of titillating tidbits.
- There are so many curse words in a multitude of languages that I’d like to use to describe the way the “Jeep Compass” makes our perfect kits look, but I only know curse words in English and a couple in French and Italian and I don’t want end up like Buster, without a voice!
- Paulo Dybala was as cold as he’s been lit in Serie A. He launched a few errant balls into the stands of Camp Nou. He missed the target. He looked awkward in possession. I’m definitely not buying the “Dybala never steps up in big games” narrative that so many of you have already promulgated — hey, remember last time against Barcelona? — I just think he played bad. It’ll make him mad. And he’ll be back, very rad.
- It’s a pretty long list of players who were bad: Alex Sandro, of all people, was pretty not good. Don’t get me started on the center backs. Gigi Buffon, I suppose, you can’t blame for any of the goals. Danny already touched on these guys.
- And a pretty thick list of players who gave us a very sharp example of mediocrity: Miralem Pjanic, Blaise Matuidi, Douglas Costa, Gonzalo Higuain.
- Also, let’s not overreact: Barcelona is still very, very good. Messi remains the best player on the planet.
Onto the awards (“awards”):
Italian Teenager Gaggle Award
For the unit embodying the following descriptors: incoherent, waste of space, frustrating.
Oh, hey, if I ever have to watch Medhi Benatia and Andrea Barzagli start next to each other against non-lower-table-Serie-A-opponent again, I’m going bonkers. To briefly don those optimist glasses, one would seriously hope — when Giorgio Chiellini returns, Benedikt Howedes features, and Daniele Rugani comes back from wherever Allegri sent him — that we just witnessed Juve’s No. 4 and 5 center backs.
I’m an Allegri supporter, but at some point you’ve got to wonder what other evidence is needed to give credence to the claim that Benatia simply isn’t up to snuff for top opponents — but he’ll be great against Sassuolo! — and neither is Barzagli, sad though it may be to admit. Rugani, Chiellini, and presumably Howedes are the only viable options against top-flight teams.
Nietzsche's Horse Award
For the player whose play demonstrated an insanity indicative of serious decline in form.
I never thought I would’ve handed this award to Alex Sandro, but how’s this for a full 90 minutes of action: zero shots, zero key passes, zero key dribbles, zero tackles, two interceptions, one clearance, one blocked shot.
Maybe he’s still sick. That’s not crazy to think. I know the teams probably say “flu” to a wide range of illnesses, but if it’s actual flu then there’s no reason not to believe he’s not still feeling bad. (Is that enough negatives for you? I’m not even sure I wrote what I meant to say. I blame Allegri!)
A few minutes before the match, as I was — for unknown reasons — reading ESPNFC, I scrolled through their “best eleven” Champions League players, and David Alaba occupied the left back spot and I vociferously (in my mind) argued that Alex Sandro deserved the spot.
I genuinely don’t know who I’d give “worst man of match” to. WhoScored says it’s a push between Barzagli and Alex Sandro. I don’t know.
All I know is what we saw was pretty good for about 40 minutes, and then really bad for about 50 minutes. And when you do that against the likes of Barcelona, you lose 3-0.