Since the restart of play coming out of the last international break, we have seen Juventus look good, we have seen Juventus look not very good and we have seen Juventus appear to be somewhere in between. Maybe it’s too much for us to ask of Juve to play well all the time these days — especially knowing what the schedule is what it is and the injury situation as it has been the last couple of weeks.
But having the schedule be busy is no surprise to Maurizio Sarri and his squad.
Neither is the fact that, as we are currently in the middle of right now, the fixture list comes at you extremely fast and you also have the chance to play some rather favorable opposition.
OK, so we thought that over the weekend when Juventus headed over to southern Italy to play Lecce, a team that has been in the depths of Italian football in recent years before earning promotion back to Serie A last season. That match proved to be one of those classic game-after-the-Champions-League-game kinds of fixtures, with Juve dominating a provincial side yet ultimately dropping points because their finishing in front of goal was about as effective as me trying to get a date in high school. (Not great!)
So, here we are to try again, lads. This time, though, Juventus won’t have to travel to the other end of the country for an away fixture. Instead, Juve will return to Allianz Stadium, once again facing a club that has struggled to start out the season. Genoa might not be the recently-promoted side like Lecce is, but after narrowly avoiding relegation last season, the Rossoblu are already on their second manager of the season, with our old buddy from Inter, Thiago Motta, winning his debut over the weekend to give Genoa its first victory since the first day of September.
Whether Genoa continue on the New Coach Bumb upward trajectory or if it’s only a one-week kind of occurrence, that remains to be seen.
But, when looking at Juventus, here’s the No. 1 priority besides getting back on track with a victory and jumping back over into first place in the Serie A table: actually converting all of those scoring chances into more than one goal.
Let me just throw this out there first: In its last two games against Serie A opposition, Juventus has recorded a whopping total of 48 shots. Throw in the comeback win over Lokomotiv Moscow in the Champions League last week, and that total goes up to 76 total shots.
In those three games, Juve has scored a combined total of ... four goals, with the most recent goal scored by Paulo Dybala being from the penalty spot.
What has been the general consensus coming out of Juve’s last couple of league games? The fact that they’re creating plenty of chances, but their ability to be clinical in front of goal is still leaving plenty to be desired. That’s not just when Federico Bernardeschi has a wide-open goal to shoot into against Lecce or an opposing goalkeeper channels his inner prime years Gigi Buffon to stop every single shot in sight. It has to do with the fact that Juventus is still looking good in some areas of play in Sarri’s system but still struggling to fine-tune some things that clearly need improvement.
Maybe it’s just a phase and in a couple of weeks Juve will be scoring more than one or two goals after creating such a large volume of opportunities in the final third.
Or maybe, like it is right now, that’s just who they are.
We’re going to find out even if it’s frustrating along the way.
- While looking for the main photo to this article, there were a lot of pictures of Mario Mandzukic from the last time Juventus played Genoa. This is your reminder that Mandzukic, simply because he doesn’t fit into Sarri’s system and has since not found a new team to play for, is still frozen out of the squad and no longer training with his teammates. That’s stupid. I miss you and your constantly-grumpy face, Mario.
- Cristiano Ronaldo is back in the squad. He spent his off day on Sunday in Alba picking truffles. Maybe that’s what he needs to put a free kick on target.
- Douglas Costa is back training with the squad. That is good news.
- More Douglas Costa news: Sarri said at his pre-match press conference that he will try to get the speedy Brazilian winger some minutes off the bench against Genoa.
- In a somewhat unexpected development, Juventus announced on Monday that Miralem Pjanic didn’t suffer a muscle injury like we all thought he did in the draw with Lecce over the weekend. Whether Pjanic actually plays against Genoa on Wednesday night is another matter entirely, but at least we got some good news when we were all expecting some not-very-good news.
- That said, Sarri wasn’t exactly optimistic that Pjanic was going to take part in Wednesday night’s game.
- Same goes for Gonzalo Higuain, who obviously is still feeling the effects of his collision with Lecce goalkeeper Rafael in the second half of Saturday’s game. As Sarri pointed out Tuesday, Higuain’s status pretty much will determine which formation his team uses against Genoa.
- Biggest takeaway from Sarri’s pre-match press conference: He wants his team to score more goals — which seems like a perfectly understandable thing knowing how things have gone the last handful of games.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
OK, time for a little bit of a curveball ...
Ever since Giorgio Chiellini went down injured and was diagnosed with at least a six-month spell on the sideline, we’ve pretty much seen the Leonardo Bonucci-Matthijs de Ligt partnership in the center of Juve’s defense and that’s about it. Bonucci has started all nine of Juventus’ league games this season, while de Ligt has only missed out on one game since he took over for Chiellini the starting lineup.
The guy who took over for de Ligt in the one game he didn’t start since being thrust into the starting lineup? That would be Merih Demiral, whose lone Juventus appearance came five weeks ago on Sept. 21 against Hellas Verona.
As Sam eluded to in his recap of the Lecce draw over the weekend, with de Ligt making another game-changing kind of mistake at the back — albeit a tough one — it might be time to give the young Dutchman a game day off just to give him a break mentally.
This is where Demiral comes into play.
Obviously there has been very little squad rotation when it comes to Juventus’ two starting central defenders, so it’s not like we have the complete depth chart figured out behind Bonucci and de Ligt. But, with Bonucci likely to play once again Wednesday night, Demiral is being tipped as the one who will step in for his fellow summer signing ahead of Daniele Rugani. (It is kinda weird that we’re about to play the final game of October and Rugani still has yet to play one single minute this season.)
And maybe that’s what de Ligt needs. It’s certainly what Demiral needs considering how little he has played through the first 2 1⁄2 months of the 2019-20 season. You can get why Sarri has been so reliant on both Bonucci and de Ligt as they try to form a partnership that can help Juventus obtain its lofty goals. But, at the same time, Juventus also brought Demiral in — even with all of six months of Serie A experience under his belt — over the summer with the view of him being a contributor in this somewhat new look of a defense.
Is Demiral playing a sure thing? No, so all of this could be a moot point if somebody else is lining up alongside Leonardo Bonucci come Wednesday night. But, what it comes to seeing what a player who hasn’t featured much at all actually does have to offer, Demiral is about intriguing as they come these days.
When: Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy
Official kickoff time: 9 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 8 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 4 p.m. Eastern Time; 1 p.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: RAI Italia America (United States); RAI Italia America, TLN (Canada); Premier Sports 2 (United Kingdom); Sky Calcio 2, Sky Sport Uno, NOW TV (Italy)
Online/mobile: ESPN+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); Premier Player HD (United Kingdom); 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.