Hello, boys and girls, and welcome to the first months worth of fixtures that only seem to arrive as frequently as Paulo Dybala goals. Actually, based on the pace he’s set so far this season, fixtures are arriving almost as frequently as Dybala is scoring goals.
Details aside of Dybala’s dominance aside, the first midweek Serie A fixture is here. And while thee may not be a bevy of big-time matchups — Lazio and Napoli is the only other game that features two teams in the top half of the table playing one another — we’ve got our first taste of a rivalry game hitting Turin on Wednesday night.
It just so happens to be a rivalry game before another rivalry game, too.
Juventus and Fiorentina don’t exactly have a lot of warm and fuzzy feelings going on between the two clubs. And knowing that Juve just signed arguably the most talented Fiorentina had on its roster over the summer, it’s not like there’s a lot of happy thoughts being thrown Juventus’ direction from Florence.
So just as the theme over the weekend was “Can Juventus bounce back after the bad loss to Barcelona?” we’ve got something along the lines of “How can Juventus build off their win against Sassuolo?” entering Wednesday night’s showdown with Fiorentina.
As Max Allegri took the mic at his pre-match press conference on Saturday, he called the Sassuolo game as the start of a critical stretch for Juventus. Obviously, some of that had to do with how his team did at the Camp Nou just a few days earlier. But it’s also the fact that games are coming fast and furious right now. There’s only a few days of rest in between each fixture and the start of the Champions League group stage as well.
And you know that this first important stretch of the season is even that much more critical after watching Inter drop points against Bologna on Tuesday night.
Let us hope that Juventus don’t do the same thing against a Fiorentina side that has rebounded coming out of the international break after losing its first two games. Nobody around here wants to see Juve drop points — especially at home.
Juventus won relatively comfortably over the weekend against Sassuolo.
Oh, and there’s also the fact that Paulo Dybala is a Juventus player. I like that.
- Claudio Marchisio
- Sami Khedira
- Mattia De Sciglio
- Marko Pjaca
This has been your Juventus injury roll call.
on his back ⚫️⚪️— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 19, 2017
goals scored ⚽️
Paulo Dybala has made a record-breaking start to the season. pic.twitter.com/cB5LEUJkhg
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1) What will Dybala FC do for his next act?
Juventus has scored 13 goals through its first four Serie A games this season. Paulo Dybala has scored eight of those goals, with hat tricks coming in both of Juve’s away games this season.
As hard as it may be to believe, but even though Dybala currently leads Serie A in goals, he doesn’t have the highest goal contribution percentage in the league entering the fifth round of games. That belongs to a couple of former Juventus strikers, Ciro Immobile and Fabio Quagliarella.
No offense to those two guys, but they’re no Paulo Dybala.
It’s incredible watching Juve’s new No. 10 work right now. I said it in the post-game after the 3-1 win over Sassuolo and I will said it again: Any time Dybala is even remotely close to the opposing goal right now there is a chance he is going to score. He is in that kind of form — and his goals on Sunday afternoon just prove that notion even more than his previous hit trick this season did.
We are watching something truly special right now. With the famed Juventus No. 10 on his back, he is making that leap into being one of the best players in the world. He’s been that good ever since the Supercoppa loss to Lazio a month ago.
Sure, there will be games where Dybala doesn’t find the back of the net, but if that happens right now it will be so hard to believe. He has been taking advantage of clear-cut scoring chances. He has been turning nothing into something like he basically did with his first two goals against Sassuolo. And did you see that free kick to complete the hat trick over the weekend? He’s dialed in from dead ball situations, too.
It’s always been fun to see an in-form Dybala work his magic. But this version of Dybala’s form continues to absolutely blow my mind — and I’m pretty sure I am not alone in that notion.
2) Is this the game where Gonzalo Higuain truly kicks things into gear?
There are probably a good portion of strikers in Serie A who would want to have two goals through their team’s first four league games. That would put them on a nice little pace for the season, I’d imagine.
But, as we know, two goals in four games isn’t the kind of goal-scoring tally we’ve come to expect from the €90 million man known as Gonzalo Higuain.
He’s not exactly in a major goal-scoring drought, having scored all of a week and a half ago against Chievo. Yet, the bigger issue, is that he’s not playing like the Higuain we know he can be and the Higuain who was one of the top scorers in Serie A during his first season with Juventus a year ago.
Is it early-season fatigue?
Is it just a mental thing because things haven’t really gone his way in recent weeks?
Is it the always-looming question about his conditioning?
Is it because his role is different with Dybala scoring so many goals these days?
There’s obviously some reason as to why Higuain just looks off right now. He, again, had around the same number of touches that Gianluigi Buffon had against Sassuolo like was the case a few days earlier against Barcelona. That, I would think, has a lot to do with it.
But as we know with Higuain, once he gets a couple of goals, the momentum seems to really gain steam. And while we’d love to see him scoring goals right and left in the Champions League knockout rounds, we’re still a ways away from all of that. So if he wants to start scoring goals against some of Juventus’ rivals the next couple of games (Fiorentina, Torino) and in the Champions League group stage, that’s fine, too.
Basically, the return of happy Higuain and the departure of the one who’s frustrated with every bit of play that doesn’t go his way is what matters the most right now.
3) Does Federico Bernardeschi get any significant playing time in his first gsame against his former club?
We seem to go through this every year with one of Juventus’ big summer signings. Dybala didn’t start right away. Neither did Higuain. It might have been the same case with Blaise Matuidi, but he’s basically been forced into action due to injuries to Claudio Marchisio and Sami Khedira.
When it comes to Federico Bernardeschi, we’re four games into Juventus’ league schedule and the 23-year-old Italian winger has played all of 19 minutes in Serie A this season. That’s ... not exactly something that I really expected. (Not that I thought he’d a full-time starter right out of the game, but you know what I’m getting at here.)
As of early Tuesday morning here in the United States, La Gazzetta dello Sport was tipping Bernardeschi to make his first-ever Juventus start against his former club. As of Tuesday afternoon/evening here in the United States, La Gazzetta dello Spot had Juan Cuadrado on the right wing in its starting lineup prediction.
Based on the fact that Cuadrado is so hit-or-miss from game-to-game — or, hell, first half to second half — I don’t think anybody would object to Bernardeschi taking over on the right wing for a game (for now).
But just like was the case last season with Higuain, it seems like the most expensive player Juve signed over the summer is going to be slow played into the starting lineup. It may come against his former team, it may not. If it doesn’t, well, then it takes away an easy narrative for this writer when he scores the game-winning goal against Fiorentina. Or, like Higuain did a season ago when La Viola came to Turin, he could come off the bench and score the game-winner. I think, based on the fact that Bernardeschi has barely played at all this season, seeing him on the field for more than 10 minutes would be a positive development at this point.
@OfficialAllegri: "I'm happy with how @fbernardeschi is coming along. He's training well and is in good shape." #JuveFiorentina pic.twitter.com/SXLV5GzOlC— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) September 19, 2017
Sooooooo ... does that mean more playing time for Fede, Max? That sure would be nice.
MY STARTING XI
Juventus XI (4-3-2-1): Wojciech Szczesny; Benedikt Howedes, Daniele Rugani, Andrea Barzagli, Alex Sandro; Miralem Pjanic, Blaise Matuidi; Federico Bernardeschi, Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic; Gonzalo Higuain
Location: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy
Kick-off time: 8:45 p.m. local time in Spain; 7:45 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 2:45 p.m. on the East Coast; 11:45 a.m. on the West Coast
TV: BT Sport 3 (United Kingdom); PremiumSport HD, Sky Calcio 1, Sky Sport 1 HD Italia (Italy)
Online/Mobile: beIN SPORTS CONNECT U.S.A., fuboTV (United States); DAZN Canada, beIN SPORTS CONNECT Canada (Canada); xx (United Kingdom); SKY Go Italia, Premium Play (Italy)
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