Because some of the Juventus-related things don’t make a whole lot of sense right now, we got the curveball thrown to us that Gonzalo Higuain would have to go off injured after just 15 minutes of Sunday’s Derby della Mole against Torino. The problem with this is that with Mario Mandzukic out due to illness and Paulo Dybala just back from injury, there was, suddenly, no natural center forward available to Max Allegri for the vast majority of the game.
But have no fear, Juve’s makeshift attack is here.
(I’m still going to worry no matter what, though.)
Unlike the last time Juventus was on a field within Turin city limits, once the six-time defending Serie A champions got the lead, they stayed there. Juve’s rather forced new-look attacking trio, led by Federico Bernardeschi and Alex Sandro, claimed yet another Turin derby win over their Granata-clad counterparts, this time winning 1-0 at the Stadio Olimpico.
And, last time I checked, the saying still goes as such: TORINO È BIANCONERA.
Same goes for, as the last handful of weekends have gone, how the Serie A standings look after a Juve game, with Juventus moving up to first place prior to Napoli’s fixture later in the weekend.
After Higuain crashed into Salvatore Sirigu in the opening couple of minutes, you just hoped that Juventus was going to make it through the game without any more injuries rather than dominating a Torino side they’ve beaten twice this season already.
Even after Sandro scored what proved to be the game-winning goal on a brilliant right-footed (!!) cross by Bernardeschi, Juve was never truly in trouble. Last time I heard Andrea Belotti’s name, I think he was hanging out in the back pocket of Daniele Rugani or Giorgio Chiellini, so that pretty much tells you how that crucial matchup went on Sunday.
Basically how Juve played with the lead against Torino is how you wanted them to play with the lead against Tottenham earlier in the week. (I’m not dwelling on the past, I swear...)
All things considered, with losing your top available goal scorer to injury early in the first half, this was one of those character-testing wins for Juventus. We’ve seen them struggle with the mental aspect and approach to games when they’ve gotten the lead in the early stages. Juventus didn’t click into a deep defensive line just a few minutes after getting the lead. Torino was just simply ineffective — and that had a lot to do with how Juve’s defense was playing.
But it certainly helped that the team was able to adapt on the fly without Higuain on the field — and that had a lot to do with how Bernardeschi was playing and the impact he had almost immediately after replacing Pipita in the 15th minute.
As we learned in the third episode of “First Team: Juventus” on Netflix earlier in the week, Bernardeschi has absolutely no shot of being a star in the kitchen. Good thing he can cook up an assist or two whenever he’s on the field because scrambling eggs sounds like it’d even be a problem for him. Go with what you know, Fede.
And what he knew on Sunday was how to give Juventus the spark it needed.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Pre-game starting lineup thought No. 1: Alex Sandro as a left winger ... okay.
- Pre-game starting lineup thought No. 2: Stefano Sturaro starting over Claudio Marchisio in the Turin derby .. okay.
- Pre-game starting lineup thought No. 3: Daniele Rugani? Okay!
- For the record, all three of those decisions proved to be ones that worked in Juventus’ favor on Sunday. So I guess Max knows what he’s doing with this whole managing thing.
- Right before Higuain came off the field, the camera cut to Gigi Buffon sitting next to Carlo Pinsoglio on the bench. The look on Buffon’s face pretty much said what all of us were thinking. It was just nothing but worry.
- Speaking of Buffon, his understudy in goal, Wojciech Szczesny, had all of three saves to make in Sunday’s win. The first, a simple dive and catch to his right. The second and third, a simple catch and dive to his left. Not a bad way to reintroduce yourself to the starting lineup.
- We mock Sturaro a lot around these parts. We’re not the only ones. But credit where credit is due: Sturaro played well against Torino — especially when you consider the fact that his role within Juve’s midfield changed quite a bit after Higuain had to come off injured. It may be a low bar set by Sturaro standards,
- One game after completing 53 percent of his passes and playing one of the worst games of his Juventus career, Sami Khedira completed close to 97 percent of the passes he attempted against Torino. It was solid if not unspectacular, but I’ll take that every time out going forward the next couple of months.
- Would I be surprising many people if I think one of Juve’s more consistent players during this unbeaten run in Serie A over the last 2 1⁄2 months has been Mattia De Sciglio? I might be, but once again he was just a steady and solid performer at right back. With Stephan Lichtsteiner’s Juve career winding down, one of the more important things to see happen is De Sciglio really take control of the starting right back position down the home stretch of the season — both for the immediate and kinda-sorta long-term future.
- And who led Juventus in total tackles on Sunday? That would be Mattia De Sciglio.
- Allegri using Alex Sandro as a winger? Who does he think he is, Dani Alves?
- Paulo Dybala made his long-awaited return from injury and then had about three scoring chances within about two or three minutes of coming on the field. He also got absolutely hacked down by every possible Torino player during the course of his 25 or so minutes on the field. But just seeing him out there was enough for me. Start building toward the second leg against Tottenham next month, Paulo.
- Injury-related prayer circle for Gonzalo Higuain.
- Injury-related prayer circle for just about every player who took a tackle from somebody in Granata on Sunday. Torino was playing a pretty rough brand of football, that’s for sure.