The beginning of a new month usually is the hint that an international break is just around the corner. Today is the final day of September. Tomorrow, Sunday, is the first day of October. Come the second day of October, the second international break of the 2017-18 season will officially be a thing. That means, for two entire weeks, we’re left to sit and talk about life without Juventus and the last game they just played.
Sunday brings us quite an interesting game, too.
A trip to Bergamo awaits Max Allegri and his squad, with the Italian champions’ perfect start to the season meeting its next challenge, this time in the form of Atalanta. Yes, the same Atalanta that some of Juventus’ future currently plays for. And the same Atalanta that was one of Europe’s best stories a season ago as they were able to secure a place in European football for the first time in a long time.
In the past week we’ve seen Juventus kick the absolute snot out of their city rivals and then look completely meh for 60 or so minutes until their €90 million man was able to kick-start things en route to their first Champions League win of the year.
The last seven days have certainly been a good way to close out September’s allotment of games.
The first game of October will be followed up by what is always going to be a tough two-week international break with no Juventus to fill our minds. (And probably some baseless transfer speculation will try to fill the void.)
But for now, Juventus’ goal is to start October just like they finished September — win.
I might be in the minority here, but winning a game in which your manager describes as “a tough match” would be a pretty good way to go into the international break. That’s just me, though, so feel free to disagree with that.
Claudio Marchisio is training with the group again.
Sami Khedira is training with the group again.
I’d say that’s pretty good news.
As Marchisio and Khedira return to full fitness, Miralem Pjanic goes and gets hurt while warming up before the Olympiacos match. That’s ... not good.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1) Can Juventus go into the international break on a high note?
After a sluggish start, Atalanta have righted the ship during the month of September and gotten back to picking up successful result after successful result. And, unlike last season, the obvious difference is that they’re having to bounce back after losing their first two league games of the season while also playing European football for the first time in a good amount of years.
We know what Juventus has been able to do in Serie A this season. They’ve played six games, they’ve won six games and enter the weekend tied atop the league standings with Napoli after they’ve done the same thing.
Not all of Juve’s performances over the past three or four weeks have been as good as things went in the Derby della Mole against Torino last weekend. That is what will go down as Juve’s best performance over the first six weeks of the season.
But to go into the international break with another good showing against such a solid team like Atalanta has proven to be over the last season and change will certainly be something to build upon.
Now we just need to see if they can actually do it.
Juventus has owned the head-to-head series between the two teams in recent years. But then again, Atalanta aren’t what they were a couple of seasons ago. Gian Piero Gasperini has breathed new life into this team and the club as a whole, and they’re once again picking up good results after losing some of their best players over the summer (while also making a nice sum of money in the process).
So yes, picking up points and staying perfect in Serie A in Bergamo would be a lovely way to spend a Sunday. At least that’s what I think is a nice little accomplishment to have under your belt as we wait for Juventus to come back in two weeks once the final whistle sounds around 24 hours from now.
2) The Juventus-owned youngsters vs. Juventus.
Over the years Juventus have gone up against clubs that have a few of their on-loan youngsters on their roster. Juventus facing an Empoli side with Claudio Marchisio and Sebastian Giovinco comes to mind. Same goes for Sassuolo when Simone Zaza and Domenico Berardi will still on Juventus’ books.
Atalanta is currently that team, with three of Juve’s best on-loan players currently plying their trade in Bergamo.
It’s no secret who they are. Mattia Caldara has only continued to impress after his breakout season last year. Same goes for Leonardo Spinazzola, who has returned to the starting lineup following his “disagreements” with the Atalanta front office in the closing stages of the summer transfer window. And then of course there’s Riccardo Orsolini, the young man who followed up a season breaking opposing defenders’ ankles in Serie B with a monster tournament at the Under-20 World Cup.
All three are in their early- or mid-20s. All three are very talented. And all three could very well be wearing a Juventus jersey next season.
The Caldara vs. Gonzalo Higuain matchup will be one of the best one-on-one duels in the entire game. As much as people might be interested in what Papu Gomez can do against the gold standard in Italy, seeing Caldara try and stop one of the world’s best No. 9s will also be quite interesting.
The same can probably said for whomever starts on the right wing for Juventus and is going up against Spinazzola for most of the game. (More on that if you scroll down.)
3) Could this be the game for Federico Bernardeschi’s first start?
Let’s see what Allegri had to say about the one open wing position (because we all know that Mario Mandzukic is starting on the left against Atalanta):
“In attack, I just need to evaluate Juan Cuadrado tomorrow, as he had a knock to the foot. It’s one between Cuadrado, Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi.”
Okay, so that’s not helpful.
And now we’re left to guess who will be playing on the right wing come the final game before the October international break arrives.
The odds of Bernardeschi getting a start are probably not very high if the first nine games of the season are any kind of indication. I think, at this point, more than just a few people are curious as to when exactly Bernardeschi’s first Juventus start will happen. And the fact that Allegri hasn’t exactly been helpful when it comes to saying when it will happen isn’t really helping our patience.
With Mandzukic playing well and Douglas Costa showing signs that he’s finding his footing in Turin, I’m left scratching my head as to just where Bernardeschi fits into things. And maybe I’m not alone in that.
Basically, I just want to see Bernardeschi play. And play for more than 10 or 15 minutes. That sure would be nice, even if it’s just for one random Sunday on the first day of October in Bergamo.
MY STARTING XI
Juventus XI (4-2-3-1): Gianluigi Buffon; Stephan Lichtsteiner, Daniele Rugani, Giorgio Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Rodrigo Bentancur, Blaise Matuidi; Federico Bernardeschi, Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic; Gonzalo Higuain
Location: Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia, Bergamo, 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: RAI Italia America (United States); RAI Italia America (Canada); BT Sport 1 (United Kingdom); Sky Supercalcio HD, Sky Calcio 1, Sky Sport 1 HD Italia, PremiumSport HD (Italy)
Online/Mobile: beIN SPORTS CONNECT U.S.A., fuboTV (United States); beIN SPORTS CONNECT Canada, DAZN Canada (Canada); Premium Play, SKY Go Italia (Italy)
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