When Juventus went into the international break on the back of a convincing win over bianconero brethren Udinese, the feeling around the club’s on-field product was that it’s on an uptick. The big summer signings have started to settle in, if they hadn’t already. There have been, maybe surprising to some, some less-than stellar moments. But as a whole, Juventus’ early-season form is getting better, not remaining stagnant like was the case this time 12 months ago.
With that being said, Max Allegri wants you to know something: The game right out of the international break is dangerous, says Max.
And guess what Juventus is about to play?
The international break is now a thing of the past. Well, for about the next month, that is. Then there will be another international break full of international fixtures and, uh, boredom because we don’t have Juventus games to watch every three or four days.
Alas, Juventus’ first post-October international break game is here — almost. Allianz Stadium will see football played on its field once more when Juventus hosts Genoa on Saturday night, the first time the seven-time defending Italian champions have played a league fixture at home since beating Napoli 3-1 last month.
To say this next stretch of games over a four-week span in both Serie A and the Champions League is important is pretty much a given. Juventus can not only strengthen their lead atop the league standings, but essentially secure their spot in the Champions League knockout round with positive results against Manchester United and then Valencia.
And with the way that Juve went into the international break, you have to like their chances of doing so — on both fronts.
Allegri loves to have his team start to really build some kind of form and momentum around this time of year. He wants his team to be running at full steam around the new year, and since we’re rolling into the month of November — and my birthday (cough cough it’s the day before Juve plays Man United cough cough) — quite soon, then getting things really clicking along Allegri’s desired timeline of past seasons is not too far away.
Of course, this season is different than others where the expectations for great things to happen are as high as they’ve been in years and years and years. Genoa will not be the be-all, end-all of the season, but to show that Juventus has the form it had going into the international break now coming out of it will be the thing that everybody wants to see.
Juventus is about to come out of the international break and, holy crap. ALMOST EVERYBODY IS HEALTHY AND AVAILABLE FOR SELECTION.
There’s still no Sami Khedira, but that also means more Emre Can and Rodrigo Bentancur, sooooooo....
Juventus are in first place, haven’t lost a game yet and are playing pretty well in the last handful of weeks. Bad news will be reserved for actual bad news.
1) Keeping the good times going
The hype train is in full force.
Not here because it’s been a relatively slow international break, but those who make it a living to give opinions — good and bad — and mildly-warm and relatively-hot takes about this game we obsess over.
The general line of thinking that the Juve we saw right before the international break is one that’s just getting started was a pretty common one knowing that they’ve got Paulo Dybala getting back to being Paulo Dybala, Douglas Costa coming back from injury and suspension as well as Cristiano Ronaldo just doing his usual thing.
Like Allegri points out, the first game coming out of an international break can be quite the tricky fixture. Same goes for some of Juve’s games against Genoa in recent seasons, with a handful of examples of Allegri’s side dropping points out there for everybody to remember.
The timing of an international break can be screwy sometimes, though. It’s almost like with the way that Juve were playing the last couple of weeks prior to the break, they should have just gone right on through and continue to build on the solid foundation they had laid at the end of September and early October.
Alas, that’s not possible. And because of it, we’re now left to sit here and wonder just how well Juventus will actually do after having two weeks off. (Even though not many of their players didn’t actually have two weeks off during the international break.)
2) Cooling down Krzysztof Piatek
For all of the preseason hype that Ronaldo got for being the leading scorer in Serie A this year, a 23-year-old Polish sensation has taken the league by storm in the opening six weeks of the season.
Krzysztof Piatek has started all seven of Genoa’s games.
In those seven games, he’s scored a Serie A-best nine goals.
Oh, and he also scored four goals in one game in Genoa’s Coppa Italia opener back in the middle of August. (Go ahead and name the team he did that against without looking it up because opening-round Coppa Italia games are always interesting.)
There’s no denying that Piatek’s first two months in Serie A have been one of the bigger stories that deserves more attention from the masses. His transfer value has already spiked from the €4 million Genoa used to sign him this past summer. He’s already been linked with a move to Juventus because obviously what Allegri’s team needs is more attacking talent.
And all the while he’s just been scoring goal after goal after goal.
This will obviously be the biggest test that Piatek has faced in his maiden Serie A voyage. As much as we talked about Juve’s defensive struggles in the opening few weeks of the season, they’ve allowed all of one goal in the last month’s worth of games, recording five shutouts in six games along the way.
With the usual host of players out on international duty and there being the matter of a trip to Manchester a few days from now, there’s likely to be at least a few regulars getting the weekend off in anticipation of Juve’s midweek showdown with United.
Either way, Piatek is almost certainly going to be Juventus’ No. 1 priority defensively. He hasn’t done anything to make all of us think otherwise with the way he’s started the season.
3) The rotation now that all six attacking players are healthy.
While there might have been injury concerns regarding Paulo Dybala in the middle of the week, Juventus’ No. 10 has been called up by Allegri for Saturday’s game.
That means there will be Dybala. There will be Ronaldo. There will be Costa. There will be Mario Mandzukic, Federico Bernardeschi and Moise Kean.
The thing is, there’s six players for what will likely be three spots in a 4-3-3 or something close to that formation.
So, who ya got?
It’s pretty much a given that Ronaldo will be one of them since he didn’t play during the international break. Even with the return trip to Old Trafford set for next week, any kind of squad rotation for Juve’s big summer signing doesn’t look like it will arrive just yet.
Who joins him is where it gets interesting.
This will be one of the biggest things going for Allegri whenever he has this many attacking choices available to him on any given night. He will obviously find a way — especially when December and January rolls around when the game time starts to add up with some of the players like Ronaldo who have started so many games already.
Maybe we’ll see Ronaldo-Mandzukic-Costa. Or Ronaldo-Mandzukic-Dybala. Or ... something else. I really don’t know, but with who’s on this team, there’s no bad options to go with really.
When: Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy
Official kickoff time: 6 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 5 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 12 noon Eastern Time; 9 a.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: TLN (Canada); Eleven Sports 2 UK (United Kingdom); Sky Calcio 1, Sky Supercalcio HD (Italy)
Online/mobile: ESPN+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); SKY Go Italia (Italy)
Other live viewing options can be found here, and as always, you can also follow along with us live and all the stupid things we say on Twitter. If you haven’t already, join the community on Black & White & Read All Over, and join in the discussion below.