It doesn’t matter who the opposition is, where the game was played or what the final score proved to be. Whenever Juventus heads into the first game after a Champions League fixture — group stage or knockout round be damned — the same question always pops into my head as I start to do my whole preview planning.
What the hell is this team going to look like in a couple of days?
Not in terms of their physical appearance, of course, because that’s up to them. Who am I to judge Paulo Dybala if he wants to get a little bit of a haircut after scoring a midweek brace, you know?
No, it has to do with how the team looks both physically on the field and then mentally when it comes to all the energy they had to expend during the course of their Champions League game — and, in this case a grind-it-out-for-90-minutes kind of win — just a few days earlier.
We’ve seen it before and we’re likely to see it again at some point this season: The Serie A game after the Champions League game is always going to be a crapshoot when you’re looking at it during the build-up. Juventus could very well show up against Lecce at the Stadio Via del Mare and show absolutely no signs of a European hangover. Or, as we’ve seen before, Juve could struggle and look like a team that is mentally and physically fatigued from the midweek European fixture it just played, grinding out a win or even dropping points to a team, like Lecce is, that they have no business doing such.
See why this question pops into my head?
It’s one we’ve experienced time and time again.
Doesn’t matter if it’s Antonio Conte, Max Allegri or now Maurizio Sarri manning the sidelines of a Juventus squad. It’s always going to be a prevalent question coming out of midweek Champions League action — and there’s really nothing that we can do about it.
At least not right now.
Juventus will have had nearly four full days of rest between the comeback win over Lokomotiv Moscow and the trip to Lecce. That’s a little more time than we’re used to when it comes to quick turnarounds after Champions League fixtures. (There was all of 72 hours between Juve’s 2-2 draw with Atlético Madrid and Hellas Verona’s trip to Turin earlier this season, for what it’s worth.)
So, in theory, Juve should be as well rested as they can be working on a loaded schedule — something they’re not going to have much of over the next couple of weeks during this seven-games-in-22-days stretch they’re currently at the beginning of right now.)
But just how rested and ready to roll again remains to be seen. Sarri himself admitted that squad rotation isn’t exactly something he’s capable of doing much these days thanks to injuries in all three areas of the squad — defense, midfield and in attack — and being forced to call up a couple of Under-23 players proves just that.
Maybe Juve will show no ill effects of the Champions League fixture on Tuesday night. Or maybe they will show that they’re a team that had to use all of the juice they had to do and this game will be one where they need to just scratch and claw to get three points.
I don’t know about all that, but this surely isn’t a road we’re completely unfamiliar with.
- No Cristiano Ronaldo called up for the trip to Lecce.
- No Aaron Ramsey called up for the trip to Lecce, either.
- No Douglas Costa or Mattia De Sciglio, too.
- Sarri did indicate that of those two, it’s De Sciglio who is a lot closer to returning to the starting lineup, with his comments about Costa not exactly encouraging if you were expecting to see the speedy Brazilian winger in the next couple of games.
- And, as the squad list for Lecce has been announced, De Sciglio is on there while Costa is nowhere to be seen.
- Going off that, Sarri pretty much said that Costa still isn’t training with the squad yet.
- Called up from Juventus’ Under-23 squad: forwards Kwang-song Han and Marco Olivieri.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
Prepare yourselves, everybody. It’s time that I stan for a few hundred words.
Your Juventus player to watch for the trip to Lecce is, to steal a line from one of our fellow writers, one of my large adults sons who wears bianconero.
(Sidenote: What an absolutely stylish young man that is right above this sentence. And don’t you just love that he’s got his cup of Mate — I think that’s it? — with him.)
Now, back to a few non-South American beverage thoughts. You know, the whole point.
Bentancur has been the utility player in Juventus’ midfield in recent weeks. He’s played in the regista role. He’s played as a trequartista. He’s played as a No. 6 in place of Sami Khedira. If there’s any other kind of role that Bentancur hasn’t at least been considered in by Sarri’s brain, I’d love to hear about it because it just seems like it could very well happen at this point.
Where he exactly lands in Sarri’s long-term plans, we don’t really know that right now. Maybe all of this moving around is Sarri testing Bentancur to see where he fits best, some type of on-the-job kind of audition for a player who obviously has quality but hasn’t gotten the consistent playing time over his early Juventus career to truly show where he fits into the puzzle.
With Federico Bernardeschi expected to come back into the starting lineup as a trequartista in Sarri’s 4-3-1-2 formation, that means Bentancur will be back in the No. 6 role that he played for a portion of Tuesday night’s comeback win over Lokomotiv Moscow. That’s the position in which we’ve seen him deployed in the most under Allegri, and one that he’s played the most with the Uruguayan national team on the international level.
This is the kind of game where Juventus will likely see a lot of the ball just like it did midweek against Lokomotiv Moscow. Lecce will drop numbers back and defend because that’s what just about every provincial side does against Juventus at home or away. That means it will likely be on Juve’s midfield to try and unlock what will probably be 10 or 11 players behind the ball for long spells of time.
Bentancur has shown more gusto and risk with his passing this season, rather than the more conservative approach he’s had in his first couple years with Juventus. Maybe that has a little bit to do with where he’s played, but this was the kind of thing in Bentancur’s game that you wanted to expand as he gets older and more experience under his belt.
So ... so far, so good?
No matter what or where he plays in this game and then in the weeks to come, as one of the drivers of the Bentancur bus here on BWRAO, we shall stan for Bentancur in this house. Well, at least my house. (And since I’ve owned my house for a year now, I quite like the house I live in.)
When: Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019
Where: Stadio Via del Mare, Lecce, Italy
Official kickoff time: 3 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 2 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 9 a.m. Eastern Time; 6 a.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: TLN (Canada); Sky Sport Serie A, Sky Calcio 1, NOW TV, 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.