Juventus has one loss since the 2017-18 season started in mid-August against Cagliari. It’s not a league loss; they’re still perfect in Serie A, so don’t you go on and start worrying. This loss came two weeks ago, away from home, and with half of Juventus’ usual starting lineup back in Turin with one kind of injury or another.
No matter the context of said game against Barcelona at the Camp Nou 14 days ago, the end result of that one loss was not pretty. Not pretty at all.
It’s been only one Champions League game, but Juventus currently sits at the bottom of Group D after her 3-0 loss to Barcelona two weeks ago. Wednesday night’s opponents, Olympiacos, also lost on the first day of group stage competition, but Juve’s minus-3 goal differential has them sitting fourth place out of four teams.
So, you can understand why Olympiacos’ visit to Turin has taken on a little more importance than a normal group stage game.
@OfficialAllegri: "After the loss in Barcelona, it's imperative that we get our first @ChampionsLeague win tomorrow night." #JuveOLY #UCL— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) September 26, 2017
“Imperative” is certainly one way to say it, Max.
One game is the ultimate small sample size when it comes to the big picture. But when it comes to the Champions League group stage, one game is a little more than considered a “small” type of deal. There are only six chances to extend your stay in Europe’s premier club competition. And when it comes to Juventus this season, they’ve come up completely empty in the first one of those six opportunities.
Juventus has already used one of those chances. It didn’t go very well.
We know that. We don’t want a repeat of it.
It certainly would be helpful if the Juventus we saw against Torino in the Derby della Mole on Saturday night would show its face when they step onto the European stage. That’s about as good as we’ve seen them play this season. And knowing that Juventus need points — yes, three points, not one point — playing like THAT, that will go a long way to helping the Italian champions dig out of the post-Barcelona loss hole they created for themselves in Spain.
Last time I checked, Juventus have been pretty damn success in Europe when their games are in Turin.
Since opening in 2011, Juventus boasts a 15-8-1 record at home in the Champions League with 42 goals scored and 16 allowed.
Juventus takes a 19-match home unbeaten streak into Wednesday night's match against Olympiacos, the second-longest current streak in Europe behind Barcelona (22 games).
Yeah, that’s pretty good.
I have a gut feeling that, again, Daniele Rugani will begin a Champions League game on the bench. I don’t know why, I just have this feeling that I’m going to be grumpy when the Juventus starting lineup is posted on Twitter an hour before kickoff.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1) Will Juventus’ lack of a right back force Max Allegri to change formations?
Mattia De Sciglio — injured.
Benedikt Howedes — injured.
Stephan Lichtsteiner — not on the Champions League squad list.
So, you can see why we might have a problem here, people. There will be no natural right back available to Allegri when he writes out his starting lineup before Wednesday night’s game. And no, I’m not considering Stefano Sturaro in that group. (No offense, Stura.)
As Allegri pointed out at his pre-match press conference, there seems to be two options for Juventus’ defense tomorrow:
- Sturaro at right back, Andrea Barzagli in the center of the defense.
- Barzagli at right back, Medhi Benatia in the center of the defense.
That ... is not very convincing and/or filling my mind with confidence..
Maybe it will be one of those classic Max lines where he throws out the possibility of something happening and then goes completely against it. He’s done it before with lineup-related things, so I guess we can’t completely rule it out.
But this is the situation that Allegri finds himself in. If he’s not going to play his second-best defender against Olympiacos — and it seems like a real possibility that Rugani is not going to play — and stick with the 4-2-3-1 formation, then these are the options he has.
I guess we’ll just have to prepare ourselves for Benatia or Sturaro playing in one hell of an important early-season game. Good times...?
2) Can Paulo Dybala’s hot streak translate to the European stage?
There are two games in which Paulino hasn’t scored a goal this season. One of them happens to be the group stage opener against Barcelona. How dare him, right?
Okay, so expecting Dybala to score in every game is a little hard to envision. Yes, even with how good he has been ever since he scored that double against Lazio in about 20 seconds towards the end of the Supercoppa last month.
But in Europe, that’s where Juventus need Dybala to be his best right now. Gonzalo Higuain is struggling, meaning Juve’s No. 10 has had to carry a little more of the attack than maybe he even anticipated.
Dybala’s game against Barcelona wasn’t great. As hard as he tried, nothing was working — which has proven to be one of the few times this season that we can say that. And based on how absolutely rediculous he’s been, it was even the more surprising.
Olympiacos aren’t Barcelona. They enter Wednesday night’s game with a new manager coaching his first game with the club. Things are obviously not going very well for the reigning Greek champions. Sounds like a spot for Dybala to strike, doesn’t it?
So do your thing, Paulo.
Paulo Dybala is the first player in Serie A to score 10 league goals this season.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 23, 2017
Just the six games needed. pic.twitter.com/W2h4i6K1yw
3) Will Gonzalo Higuain’s day of rest do him some good?
Sometimes you need a mental health day in whatever your profession may be. Take a break, not stress about things, basically try and rid yourself of the problems of previous days and weeks.
I’m going to think that, at least in some part, Allegri’s goal was to have Saturday’s win over Torino serve as Higuain’s mental health day. The way he was playing, the way he was reacting to things on the field, it was pretty easy to figure out that he needed one.
Now we get to see if it helped Juventus’ struggling No. 9 at all.
We can throw numbers out about how few goals Higuain has scored through the first six Serie A games and how uninvolved he has been over the last couple of weeks. That’s all good and helpful. When you’re a player as good as Higuain and aren’t involved when it comes to actually seeing the ball, then that kind of defeats the purpose of having him on the field.
But I’m just going to throw this out there: How far do you think a goal will go in terms of helping Higuain’s confidence? Like, a typical, Pipa kind of goal — how much will it help? How much would a goal in the Champions League help?
I have faith Higuain will return to form at some point soon because he’s too good not to be the kind of striker we saw for most of last season. The only thing is, we don’t exactly know when that will take place. And it’s not like we’re patient people some of the time, so that doesn’t exactly help matters, either.
MY STARTING XI
Juventus XI (4-2-3-1): Gianluigi Buffon; Andrea Barzagli, Daniele Rugani, Giorgio Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Miralem Pjanic, Blaise Matuidi; Juan Cuadrado, Paulo Dybala, Douglas Costa; Mario Mandzukic
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 Extra (United Kingdom); PremiumSport (Italy)
Online/Mobile: ESPN3 USA, Fox Soccer Plus, WatchESPN, FOX Soccer Match Pass (United States); Premium Play (Italy)
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