For 14 days we’ve been sitting and waiting for Juventus’ next game to arrive. The last one was not creation of Picasso — unless you’re talking about Paulo Dybala’s form right now — and that is the last Juventus in-game thoughts we’ve been stuck with as the month of September has gotten underway.
Well, we’ve got some news for you all.
The transfer window is closed.
The international break is over.
Now it’s time to get back to business.
There is a monster game standing there in the distance and just a couple of days away against Spanish opposition named Bar...Barca...Barcelona (I think?). But the immediate task at hand isn’t exactly in the same class as Tuesday’s opponent that is led by a bearded Argentinian who has scored a few goals in his career.
No, this isn’t meant as shots fired at the Flying Donkeys, still one of the best team nicknames in the history of team nicknames.
But when you throw a question along the lines of “What’s the more important game, Chievo in Serie A or Barcelona in the Champions League?” out there, I think it’s pretty safe to identify what 99.9 percent of the people out there will say.
To get to one, you first have to deal with the other.
Even as Juventus takes the field against Chievo on Saturday, I know for a fact Barcelona will be sitting in the back of my mind. Everything Juventus does will have a Barca-related thought going through my head. If Paulo Dybala or Gonzalo Higuain miss a golden scoring opportunity, the “He better not do that mess against Barcelona on Tuesday” thoughts will be quickly racing through my thought process. If Juventus’ defense does something stupid that leads to a Chievo scoring chance, the thinking will be if the same kind of thing happens against Barcelona could very well mean Gigi Buffon is picking the ball out of the back of his net.
I’m not saying that Juventus are going to punt the Chievo game and have all of their sights set on Barcelona even before the weekend gets going. I’m pretty sure Max Allegri would be throwing things in the locker room if he hears any of that nonsense.
The boss isn't looking ahead.— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) September 8, 2017
All are on #JuveChievo. pic.twitter.com/Mywh7Vhssh
But even these players, as great as they are, can be guilty of at least thinking about Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and the like at any given time. They’re going to be focused on Chievo, I don’t doubt that. They’ve been in this kind of situation before, have taken care of business and then moved on to the monster standing in the distance.
Heck, Juve faced Chievo before playing Barcelona in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals last season, beat them 2-0 and then rolled right into the next one.
I think a lot of would take not only a 2-0 win over Chievo on Saturday but also the same result that happened in that first leg in Turin against Barcelona. That’s a safe kind of bet, methinks.
Arguably the worst of the international breaks is now over. Juventus back, folks.
- No Claudio Marchisio — injured.
- No Giorgio Chiellini — injured.
- No Sami Khedira — Rest, I assume.
Just what you want to hear with a trip to Barcelona a few days away, right?
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1) Who sits ahead of Barcelona and who actually plays?
There is a ever-growing likelihood that Max Allegri will have a starting lineup that doesn’t even come close to resembling that of the one we saw in Juventus’ final game before the international break against Genoa two weeks ago. Some of that has to do with the injuries to Marchisio and Chiellini above, but even more of it is because of both players being rested and others just coming back from international duty.
The last part isn’t much of a surprise as Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado just got back from Argentina and Colombia, respectively.
The other two parts shouldn’t be a surprise, either. Marchisio and Chiellini being injured isn’t exactly breaking news. Allegri plans to give Gigi Buffon the day off, meaning we get the Woj Experience for the first time this season. Khedira, who had a minor injury scare during the international break, is being rested against Chievo, which could open up a spot for somebody like Rodrigo Bentancur perhaps.
Juventus will be as full strength as they can be against Barcelona on Tuesday night. Against Chievo? Well, that is shaping up to be a little different.
2) Is it Federico Bernardeschi time?
With Dybala and Cuadrado almost certainly not starting against Chievo, that means that two starting spots are open for the taking if Allegri plans to stay with a 4-2-3-1 formation this weekend.
That means two fewer options to select from for Allegri. And that means Bernardeschi, who has yet to play a single minute in Juve’s first two Serie A games, should get some playing time at long last.
Whether he does is something we don’t know yet.
Allegri was rather coy about the possibility of Bernardeschi playing when he spoke about the topic at his pre-match press conference on Friday afternoon. "Bernadeschi has grown a lot since he came in and will surely be an important player for Juventus,” Allegri said, “but he needs to set out his own path just like every young player who joins this club."
If it sounds familiar, that’s because it’s pretty much the same kind of thing we’ve heard for a lot of Juve’s big-name signings over the last couple of years when they’re not immediately put into the starting lineup. But with options limited as they are due to international responsibilities having just ended, the reasoning for not playing Bernardeschi is far outweighed by the logic that comes with putting his name in the starting lineup for the first time this season.
3) It’s Daniele Rugani and (insert name here) in the center of Juve’s defense?
With Chiellini hurt and Andrea Barzagli (probably) being rested, there are two options here — Medhi Benatia and Benedikt Howedes.
Howedes has been in Turin ever since he signed training with the limited number of players who didn’t get the international callup a couple of weeks ago. Benatia, on the other hand, has been on international duty with Morocco and blasting music during Instagram selfies during his travels with his teammates. We know how Benatia looked in the preseason. That’s no secret and there’s not exactly any reason to rehash how much he struggled during his appearances in the United States.
For all we know, the central defensive pairing against Chievo will be the same one Allegri uses three days later in Spain. That, at least for now, will be something that is a wait-and-see kind of deal.
But in case you don’t want to scroll down and read my preferred starting lineup, here’s who I want to be starting next to Rugani on Saturday:
There you have it, folks.
MY STARTING XI
Juventus XI (4-3-3): Wojicech Szczesny; Stephan Lichtsteiner, Benedikt Howedes, Daniele Rugani, Alex Sandro; Blaise Matuidi, Rodrigo Bentancur, Miralem Pjanic; Federico Bernardeschi, Gonzalo Higuain, Douglas Cossta
Location: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy
Kick-off time: 6 p.m. local time in Italy; 5 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 12 p.m. on the East Coast; 9 a.m. on the West Coast
TV: RAI Italia America (United States); RAI Italia America (Canada); BT Sport Extra (United Kingdom); Sky Sport 1 HD Italia, Sky Supercalcio HD, PremiumSport HD, Sky Calcio 1 (Italy)
Online/Mobile: fuboTV, beIN SPORTS CONNECT USA (United States); DAZN Canada, beIN SPORTS CONNECT Canada (Canada); SKY Go Italia, Premium Play (Italy)
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