OK, so we’ve gone through the hype and spectacle that was Cristiano Ronaldo’s debut as a Juventus player. We’ve gone through the first wave of analysis regarding what kind of product Juventus can put out there with how this current team is constructed. And, maybe most importantly to Max Allegri, he’s seen what’s wrong with his team now that it’s at full strength and he can identify where it all needs to be fixed.
This weekend brings a different kind of spectacle.
Juventus’ new era hits Allianz Stadium for the first time.
And not just the fact that it’s Ronaldo’s first game in front of his new hometown crowd, one that will be absolutely ratcheted up to watch CR7 play at Allianz Stadium for the first time as a Juventus player.
Did I mention Juve’s opposition is pretty good, too? Because they’re pretty good.
It’s hard to necessarily quantify Lazio’s trip to Turin as a big game in the standings knowing that it’s just Week 2 of the brand new season. But it’s bound to be a big game in just about every single aspect in the build-up to it — the fact that it’s Ronaldo’s home debut, Juve are coming off a not-so-convincing 3-2 win over Chievo and the fact that a win over Lazio will give this new-look side a bunch of confidence going into a stretch of league games prior to Napoli’s visit to Turin in late-September that will be a lot like what they just faced this past weekend. (You know, teams that will either be in the middle of the Serie A table or battling relegation by the time the second half of the season arrives.)
Oh, and there’s also this: Lazio, which saw Napoli come back for a 2-1 win in the hours following Juve’s season-opening win, is a pretty damn good team that gave Juventus plenty of problems last year.
Juventus didn’t play poorly a week ago in their season opener at the Bentegodi. They didn’t play great, but it wasn’t the unmitigated disaster that a late-game comeback against a Chievo side that finished a couple of points outside the relegation zone last season might be considered. Sure, Federico Bernardeschi turned the game on its head and ended up being the game-changing player that many thought Juve’s new No. 7 would be in his debut.
The 2018-19 season opener was not perfect — not by a long shot. And we know that if the same issues that plagued Juventus against Chievo show their head against Lazio then it’s going to be an interesting visit to Turin for Lazio just as it was last season.
Also interesting: How absolutely jacked up Allianz Stadium is going to be.
And we really don’t want to see all those people, many of which will be wearing their brand new No. 7 jerseys (no, not Simone Pepe’s kit), disappointed.
Juventus won a game where Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t score a goal. Sure it was Chievo, but I’m thinking a lot of naive folks would think that no Ronaldo goals means no Juventus win.
A home opener without Claudio Marchisio and Gigi Buffon just doesn’t seem right.
1) Giorgio Chiellini/Leonardo Bonucci vs. Ciro Immobile
I know it will be hard to believe, but Ciro Immobile seems to have a knack for scoring goals against his former club. I know, I know. It’s not like we have anything recent to remind us of that notion about Immobile being one of the biggest current-day examples of the Ex Effect.
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Immobile has been a thorn in the backside of Juventus for years now. A lot of Serie A teams can say that based on the fact that he’s been one of the league best strikers the past handful of seasons. But it’s true for Juventus — especially last season.
We can say Juventus had a good defensive outing based on the fact that Wojciech Szczesny didn’t have to make any saves last week. But we can also say that they had two really bad mistakes cost them goals against a Chievo team that averaged under a goal per game last season.
I think it’s safe to say that any kind of defensive lapses with Immobile looking have a good chance of spelling bad news for Juventus on Saturday night. It did last season — and we all know how that game at Allianz Stadium turned out.
2) Can Paulo Dybala make things click?
The season debut wasn’t exactly a memorable one for Juve’s No. 10. Well, that’s unless you consider him not playing all that well at all as being “memorable.”
Things with Ronaldo and the like aren’t going to click right away for Dybala no matter how much insane potential that combination has in terms of goal production. Not only does Allegri need to find the right spot for Ronaldo, but then Dybala will obviously have to learn to find his niche within that space.
If the 4-2-3-1 is what Allegri is going to go with for the immediate future — and that’s what it looks like the Italian press is predicting will happen — then Dybala will be the one playing in the hole no matter if it’s Ronaldo or Mario Mandzukic playing as the target man up front.
That’s the same spot where Dybala absolutely caught fire at the beginning of last season, so it’s not like he can’t be an effective player there by any means. But that was with Gonzalo Higuain up front, somebody who he clearly had loads of chemistry with front it seemed like the first time they played together at the club level.
How fast Dybala develops his chemistry with Ronaldo will be crucial in these early weeks of the season. But getting Dybala playing well first and foremost is the key to all of this. You get Dybala cookin and it just seems like the rest is going to fall into place.
3) Improvement between Game No. 1 and Game No. 2
It’s totally classic coach speak, but it’s something they want to see.
We’ve been over how Juve played against Chievo. We’ve been over the fact that Lazio will be a considerable step up in competition from what they saw the weekend before.
This is what we know: Juventus still has things to figure out, like those massively glaring defensive mistakes that gifted Chievo a pair of goals last Saturday. We also know that they’re bound to score a healthy amount of goals simply knowing who they have in attack.
But even with all of that it’s still a work in progress. We know that. Allegri surely knows that since he’s always preaching patience this time of year. He said at his pre-match press conference on Friday that he will start making some tough decisions regarding his squad selection.
So, if you were expecting Ronaldo to be benched after not scoring a goal in his debut, get lost. (Please note the sarcasm in all of that. I love you all.)
When: Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy
Official kickoff time: 6 p.m. local time in Italy; 5 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 12 p.m. noon on the East Coast; 9 a.m. on the West Coast
HOW TO WATCH
Television: ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, RAI Italia America (United States); RAI Italia America (Canada); Eleven Sports 1 UK (United Kingdom); Sky Sport Serie A, Sky Supercalcio HD, Sky Calcio 1 (Italy)
Online/mobile: WatchESPN, ESPN Deportes+ (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.
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