Since Juventus came back from the October international break, we’ve seen two different kinds of performances from Max Allegri and his band of bianconero-clad behemoths.
- Very, very good opening 45 minutes against Genoa and Manchester United.
- Absolute crap and nothing memorable at all — unless you want to remember Juve playing like crap — against Empoli.
So, it’s either “YAY!!!” or, well, the opposite of joyful thoughts because of how Juve just played. There’s really been no in-between kind of scenario where it’s part of the good, part of the not-so-good. (Unless you throw in the second-half showings from the Genoa and United matches.)
We will be seeing Jose Mourinho and his desired puss face in just a matter of days. That could, in a very realistic kind of world, have Juventus players looking ahead a few ticks on the calendar when they face Cagliari at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night. That’s no shot at Nicolo Barella or our former lord and savior Simone Padoin, but a Saturday night against Cagliari isn’t exactly the same as a big European fixture against a (dormant) European heavyweight.
So, the natural narrative of Juventus overlooking Cagliari has been established.
You can thank me in advance.
But what we really have here is the latest step in the quest for Juventus to play a complete game again ... or something that is closer to it than we’ve seen of late. Not a 45- or 50-minute kind of deal where Juventus look great and then completely tail off in quick fashion. What we’re talking about here is something that says the completely unmemorable showing against Empoli is pretty much the kind of thing that stays forgettable.
The good thing is that they’ve had a week off between the last game and the next one — and that’s because this club needed it. No need to look any further than how strong Juve’s midfield looked coming out of the international break and the completely burnt-out nature they had in their play last weekend against Empoli. (More on that later.) They’ve been able to rest up, even travel a little bit in the day or two following the 2-1 comeback win over Empoli
Seems like the chance to come out firing against Cagliari, right?
Well, that’s the hope. Sometimes our hopes don’t always work their way into Juve’s plan.
Either way, Juventus could start out the month of November a lot like how their final game in October went. Or, as I’m sure a lot of people are probably hoping, there’s more of that first half from Genoa and Man United than anything else.
That would be cool. So would another three points.
Let me give you a hint as to who’s available for selection again...
No Giorgio Chiellini.
No Federico Bernardeschi.
Sami Khedira is back.
1) What’s the status of the Juventus midfield?
The last time we saw Juventus their midfield was running on empty around the time halftime rolled around. Nobody could really blame them considering that it’s been the same three names — Miralem Pjanic, Rodrigo Bentancur and Blaise Matuidi — running out there for the better part of the last month.
It’s been seven days since Juventus last played a game.
And even though Khedira is back in the fold after his decently-long injury absence, I don’t think anybody is thinking that Brother Sami is going to be able to play heavy minutes right off the bat.
That means Pjanic, Bentancur and Matuidi will likely be the starting three in midfield again.
And that means we’ll be able to see immediately just how much the seven days between games really did help their legs.
Maybe that’s more important for a game like when United come to town next Wednesday since it will be the game after such a generous bit of time between fixtures. You know, the old “How can these guys respond?” type of deal once they’ve gotten more minutes on their legs and then have a quick turnover midweek.
No matter what, though, against both Cagliari and Manchester United, Juve’s midfield will have to play more like it did in the middle of October rather than how it looked at the end of the month. And no, it’s not like that young midfielder that so many of us like that will be wearing a Cagliari jersey can be added to the roster between now and Wednesday night.
2) Just what formation does Max go with?
With no Bernardeschi, Mario Mandzukic just back from injury and Douglas Costa likely ready for a heavy workload again, Mr. Allegri has options even without Fede available.
4-3-2-1 Christmas tree time?
It will be interesting to see, to say the least. Douglas Costa has yet to truly get things rolling like he had them clicking in the second half of last season, so this might be the chance to have him brimming with confidence entering such an important European contest. Or, maybe it will just remain mostly status quo with Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado playing on either side of Cristiano Ronaldo in what has become a default trident attack.
There’s going to be nine days between now and the trip to Milan that is on the eve of the November international break. Players in attack will likely be rested before it’s too late. But there’s also the fact that Allegri will be fielding his top attacking lineup more often than not, so maybe rest isn’t even in the realm of possibility.
No matter what, though, getting this attack rolling again and not becoming so Ronaldo dependent will be important no matter if it’s November, December or the middle of March and April. That’s just how it works. That’s how it’s always going to work.
3) The end product from Juventus
There are probably people hopping on the Napoli bandwagon following their 5-1 thrashing of Empoli on Friday night. And they’re probably thinking that because Napoli did to Empoli what Juventus couldn’t, the shrinking gap between the two in the Serie A table will continue to be that way now that they’ve once again established themselves as the class of the league.
But what I’m worried about isn’t where Napoli is or how many points they may or may not be behind Juventus at the moment.
It’s more about where Juventus stands as a team and the quality of play.
We went into the October international break thinking that the way they were playing was going to be the start of something good. They’ve shown plenty more glimpses of that in games after the two-week break, but the ever-present theme has been it hasn’t been consistent. We see the flashes, we see good play continue for maybe a half or so, but nothing really more than. Obviously the game’s circumstances dictate how Juve approach each matchup both entering the game and during it.
It’s simple, really. Play well, get three points, make the home crowd happy, celebrate the win like this:
When: Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy
Official kickoff time: 8:30 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 7:30 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time; 12:30 p.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: RAI Italia America (United States); TLN, RAI Italia America (Canada); Eleven Sports 2 UK (United Kingdom)
Online/mobile: ESPN+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); DAZN Italy (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.