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Manu’s Grab Bag: New year, same Juve.

We talk Emre Can, Federico Bernardeschi, CR7 being the goat and Stefano Sorrentino the GOAT

Juventus v Chievo - Serie A Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

I generally have very few complaints regarding my Juventus watching experience. ESPN Latin America has a solid deal in place for the rights to broadcast Serie A and they usually broadcast Juventus games. In fact, most of the time, it’s Juventus games. You can see them in the app or on TV, it’s objectively really good, kudos all around.

(I swear to God this is not a paid post, although you know, ESPN, sponsor this column maybe?)

The reason I bring this up is, because of the Italian Super Cup, Juventus had to play their fixture against Chievo Verona on a Monday. I don’t know about you, dear readers, but despite what you might think, I still hold a 9-to-5 job so a 1:30 MST kickoff game was late enough to not really be on my lunch break but early enough that I could bamboozle my bosses into pretending I was having late lunch and meeting an old friend so I could watch the game for this, your trustworthy Grab Bag.

What would be my surprise that after running my gambit, I come to realize that the only restaurant that broadcasts football anywhere near my workplace has decided to show reruns of a terrible Mexican soap opera while showing Juve-Chievo on the smallest TV known to man, approximately 100 feet from the nearest seat.

I know Juve-Chievo is not a marquee matchup, but c´mon son, give me something to work with here. I even told him I was a journalist, to absolutely no avail, disgraceful stuff that people don’t respect us journos no more.

Anyway, let’s talk about some hot, exciting Serie A on a Monday, action.

Winner: Me

Just me, personally. This offensive lineup is everything I ever wanted out of Juventus. You got Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala up front with Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi in the wings. Here at BWRAO, we managed to catch a live look at my face scrolling through to Twitter and seeing this lineup announced, take a look:

And what do you know! Juventus scored a bunch! Turns out putting a lot of really talented offensive players together is a viable and solid strategy to win football games. Well, I’ll be damned.

Not only am I a winner for the lineup, but a bunch of the token things that make me happy in this Juventus squad happened, let’s run them down:

  • Mattia Perin and his rockstar hair having a pretty good game between the sticks.
  • My large, adult son Paulo Dybala bossing.
  • Daniele Rugani getting a start AND a goal.
  • Leonardo Spinazzola making his much due Serie A debut with Juventus, I feel like I’ve been hearing how good this kid is for ages, so it was awesome to finally see him for a bit.

The next two were so big they deserve their own categories.

Winner: Federico Bernadeschi

Look at you go! Great game by Fede, and look I know this was against Chievo, so we are judging on a bit of a curve — all disrespect to Chievo — but still this was a great sight to see from Fede.

He was doing all the things that made him such a great surprise early in the season and looking very much like the foundational guy Juve paid 40 million euros for, capping it off with a pearl of an assist for the last goal of the evening.

Nothing but good things can happen to Juve if Fede can continue with this level of play.

Winner: Emre Can

It’s not the biggest sample, but it’s fair to say this was the best game of the young German in a Juventus shirt. Not only did he score, after a fantastic team build-up play and a superb assist from Dybala, but he did everything he was brought here to do.

In fact, he reminded me of Sami Khedira! Yes, I know it’s hard to remember, but once upon a time Sami Khedira was a good, productive football player for this team. Can played a vintage Khedira game, running the entire game, recovering balls and making dangerous runs.

Can we see this same lineup, but with Miralem Pjanic and Can?

Winner: Stefano Sorrentino

You might be wondering how the losing goalkeeper can be considered a “winner,” especially when he allowed three goals. But, that’s because you don’t know the legend of the gawd, Stefano Sorrentino. Sorrentino is a perfectly OK goalkeeper — he’s had a long career, played in Spain, Greece and Italy, been a starter for Palermo, A.E.K. Athens, Varese FC and now Chievo.

And yet, whenever he plays against Juventus he turns into a mix of peak Gianluigi Buffon, a giant squid and Jesus Christ himself. It’s awesome, and might be one of my favorite random Serie A subplots. He might be the only GK alive to allow six goals in two games against Juventus and yet come out of both games with the entire viewing public thinking “That guy is really good”

As his latest feat, The Notorious Sorrentino stopped a PK from Cristiano Ronaldo, just another day at the office for The Based Stefano. Which, brings me to…

Loser: Cristiano Ronaldo


Pretty bad game for the golden boy — wasted a number of chances, was the player with the least amount of touches and got his penalty saved by the best goalkeeper alive.

Just as this was Can’s best game in a Juve shirt, this might have been the worst game Ronaldo has played since he joined this summer. Yet, the game was never really in doubt and he had been on a heater before this, so I don’t expect this to become a major issue.

Sometimes you have bad days at the office; this was one of them for CR7.

Parting shot of the week

It sure was nice to have Serie A back, despite the logistical issues of having to see it in the tiniest TV known to man. After the hullabaloo of the Super Cup and the prolonged winter break, I enjoyed going back to normalcy and to games that matter.

Every new year comes with a bittersweet taste, the unavoidable feeling that a lot of things have happened and that they will never come back, along with the uncertainty of what is coming. Granted, the New Year is a man-made delimitation and it really doesn’t mean anything, if you want to be that guy. But for regular folk like me, it’s a tricky time to navigate.

One of the many awesome things of being a sports fan is cyclicity, every year no matter what, there’s a new season and new games and new chances. So, sure we could all look ahead to 2019 and see that the world is in flames and everything is a mess, worry about what might come, how we are going to survive until the next paycheck, figure out personal and work related stuff and get worried that, with all probability, you don’t have it together.

Or, as the old cliché goes, take it one game at a time. Realize that hey, January is almost over, paycheck is just a few days from here, Serie A is back, Juventus still plays every week, Champions League is just around the corner and this might be the year.

If Sorrentino can stop a CR7 penalty kick, the sky is the limit.

Walk chin-first into 2019 and dare it to do something, folks.

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