For the first time this season, Juventus is coming off a loss. And not just a loss, but one where they didn’t look very good in the process as the game quickly slipped away from them in the second half. It wasn’t pretty, nor was anybody trying to tell us otherwise afterwards.
The headlines will include “Juventus try to bounce back against Sassuolo” or something along those lines. And hey, they aren’t wrong. Juventus played well for about 40 minutes in Spain and then took an absolute nosedive when Lionel Messi finally scored a goal against Gianluigi Buffon.
Speaking of Buffon, here’s what he’s had to say in the days following the Barcelona loss. And like always, when Buffon speaks, we must listen.
"Strategy is important in football, just as intelligence and team unity are important: if you're playing a team that's better than you, you'll struggle to win by going on the attack. The mistake we made was not understanding that we needed to carry on playing the way we had in the first half, as the coach told us to do.
"The match against Sassuolo on Sunday is an opportunity for us to get going again with renewed confidence, togetherness and Juve mettle.”
There’s the bouncing back theme again.
It’s the same thing that we always say whenever Juventus lose a game — which obviously hasn’t happened often over the last six years or so — and that’s just how it’s going to be. It’s the easy talking point, but also a very understandable one based on how Juventus played after falling behind to Barcelona.
We know this Juventus team can be better than what they showed against Barca at the Camp Nou four days ago. Some of that has to do with the fact that half of the usual starting lineup was out injured — or not selected to play from the opening whistle — and some of it has to do with the sheer quality of talent that this team has on its roster.
So yes, Juventus do need to bounce back — especially with the amount of games they have coming their way over the next month. There’s no slowing down right now. Sassuolo is struggling to open the season, they’re not doing much of anything right in their attack and are playing like a team that Juventus has no business losing to right now.
That’s not me being an overconfident Juventus fan. That’s just me looking at the form of the opponent and realizing what’s in front of Juve this weekend.
We’ve seen Juventus build off wins in Serie A and carry that momentum into Europe. With some big fixtures coming up in the coming weeks and another Champions League game sitting there in between said domestic meetings, there might not be a better time to get things kicked into gear than now.
We’d say that’s appropriate any time, but playing well early in the season is okay with me, that’s for sure.
- Giorgio Chiellini is back in the squad.
- Mario Mandzukic is back in the squad.
- Stephan Lichtsteiner is actually available for selection.
- Juan Cuadrado is actually available for selection.
Hey, if only this was the case against Barcelona, right?
Claudio Marchisio is still hurt. Sami Khedira is still hurt. And we can add another to the injury list following Tuesday’s loss to Barcelona: Mattia De Sciglio, who wasn’t called up for the trip to Sassuolo.
Also, have you seen what time this game kicks off? Pray for those of us like myself who will be awake at three in the morning watching this team we love. Dedication, holmes.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1) Can Gonzalo Higuain get things going again?
It sounds funny to say because the last time Juventus faced Serie A opposition we saw Higuain celebrating a goal like you see in the photo to your right.
But a good portion of the time this season, we’ve seen Pipita become rather isolated as Juventus tries to kick its attack into gear.
Sure, some of that has nothing to do with him. There’s only so much responsibility he can take when he has as many touches as Buffon like was the case against Barcelona earlier in the week. I mean, that’s just reality. We can’t expect him to light up the world with goals and fill our hearts with pride when he’s not involved in much of anything.
Max Allegri spoke about Higuain at his pre-match press conference on Saturday afternoon and how, like everybody else on the team, he’s being expected to replicate what he did a season ago. That is true to a point, but there’s also been signings this summer that are hopefully going to help feed Higuain’s form and get it going to where he’s a threat to find the back of the net almost every time he touches the ball.
If Higuain wants to start playing pissed off because he wasn’t called up to the Argentina national team again, this would probably be a good time for it. I wouldn’t be opposed to it one bit — and I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks that way.
2) How Giorgio Chiellini looks in his return from injury.
Chiellini is back in the squad and I’ll just go ahead and assume that he is going to be back in the starting lineup as well.
The thing is, though, we’ve been in this kind of situation before with Chiellini. Plenty, plenty of times. He comes back from injury, might not be completely or 100 percent healthy, then something goes tweak again and he’s out for another couple of weeks.
Yeah, we don’t want that happening again.
We’re not sitting there monitoring Chiellini’s every move during training or know how truly fit he is. But if he’s called up and available to play — and then probably start — then I guess we have to assume that he’s good to go. At least for right now.
There might as well be prayer circles for Chiellini’s health back in Turin because it’s becoming more and more obvious how important he’s going to be to this Juventus defense this season. The Chiellini-Daniele Rugani combination has been relatively good this season. And I’d like to assume that Rugani will be back in the starting lineup against Sassuolo — even though I did the same thing when Juve faced Barcelona — and things will hopefully get back to normal defensively.
So here’s to Chiellini staying healthy for an extended period of time again. Here’s to Chiellini teaming up with Rugani in the center of Juventus’ defense. And here’s to Chiellini and Rugani helping Juventus extend Sassuolo’s offense struggles to open the 2017-18 season. That sure would be nice.
3) The Domenico Berardi Experience.
I take you back to this time last season where Sassuolo were competing in Europe and there was a young Italian winger scoring goals in absolute bunches. That winger, of course, is Domenico Berardi, a player who may have been linked to Juventus once or twice over the last couple of years.
This season has been a little bit different.
Sassuolo, under brand new management with Eusebio Di Francesco now in Rome, hasn’t won a game yet. In their first three Serie A games, Sassuolo hasn’t scored a goal yet while allowing six. Berardi has scored just once this season, and that came in Sassuolo’s Coppa Italia opener against Spezia last month.
So, basically, things aren’t exactly off to a good start.
But we know what kind of talent that Berardi has. He may not want to move to a big club these days, feeling safe in the small-town and small-club environment that is Sassuolo, but he’s capable of taking over a game whenever he’s on the field.
And since Berardi is still being played out on the right wing this season, the matchup against Alex Sandro — who is likely to start at left back against Sassuolo — is going to be pretty fun to watch regardless of what kind of form each player is in. (Which is not very good for both at the moment.)
Coming from a totally selfish standpoint, though, I hope that Berardi’s goal-scoring slump to open the season is extended at least one more game. If he wants to score a brace or something against Cagliari in a couple of days, that’s cool. Just don’t do it against Juventus on Sunday, Mimo.
MY STARTING XI
Juventus XI (4-3-2-1): Gianluigi Buffon; Stephan Lichtsteiner, Daniele Rugani, Giorgio Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Miralem Pjanic, Blaise Matuidi; Federico Bernardeschi, Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic; Gonzalo Higuain
Location: Stadio Città del Tricolore, Reggio Emilia, Italy
Kick-off time: 12:30 p.m. local time in Spain; 11:30 a.m. in the United Kingdom; 6:30 a.m. on the East Coast; 3:30 a.m. on the West Coast
TV: beIN Sports USA, beIN Sports en Español, RAI Italia America (United States); ,beIN Sports Canada, beIN SPORTS en Español, Rai Italia America (Canada); BT Sport 3 (United Kingdom); Sky Supercalcio HD, Sky Calcio 1, PremiumSport HD
Online/Mobile: beIN SPORTS CONNECT USA, fuboTV (United States); beIN SPORTS CONNECT Canada, DAZN Canada, fuboTV Canada (Canada); SKY Go Italia (Italy)
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