Coming out of the October international break, one of the biggest talking points was just how Juventus was going to manage a stretch of seven games in all of 22 days. There was a lead in Serie A to maintain. There was a spot in the Champions League knockout stages to try and lock down. That upcoming three-week stretch had quite a bit to do with what Juve wants to try and accomplish in the first few months of 2020.
We have reached the seventh and final game of the three-week gauntlet. (It was a gauntlet in terms of how the schedule was constructed, not necessarily what clubs were on Juventus’ fixture list.) And said gauntlet has been ... interesting to say the least, with rather forgettable performances stacked up on one another.
The good thing? Juventus, despite its dip from its positive early-season form, continues to win no matter how bad the overall end product may be.
The other good thing? Juventus might not be playing well, but its situation is certainly better than what the opposition is facing, with an AC Milan side that continues to be a complete shell of its former self is what lies between Juventus and the November international break.
What was once one of the biggest games of the season is now just another one along the string of fixtures that Juventus will win to go back in front of Inter in the Serie A standings. Maybe a decade ago, this would be the one that dominates talk in the days leading up to kickoff in Turin, but not now. With so much separation between the two clubs — on the field, on the roster and in the front office — this once-season-defining fixture is now just ... another round on the schedule.
Just take these couple of numbers in as we show you just how much Milan has struggled through the first 11 rounds of the Serie A schedule.
- After Saturday’s games, Milan are 16 points behind Juventus and 18 points behind first-place Inter.
- After Saturday’s games, Milan are all of five points ahead of Sampdoria, which is currently sitting in the relegation zone in 18th place.
It’s been that kind of season for Milan, one that has seen a managerial change already take place and nothing really improve since then. (Maybe it’s not the manager, you know?)
But, as we’ve seen with Juventus lately, it doesn’t really matter who the Bianconeri play because the end product has left a lot to be desired. Juve’s form is not of the free-flowing kind of football we got a lot of glimpses of the first six weeks of the season. Since the October international break ended, Juve’s form has been about as unimpressive as one-goal games have been a constant.
It’s been a grind-it-out kind of stretch for Juventus rather than seeing the squad fly into each game after the latest convincing win.
There has been no demolition derby wins where Juve can just stroll to the final whistle. We’ve seen late-game comebacks, stoppage-time goals and just about every scenario you can think of where Juventus has suffered for large portions of matches before doing what they do and walking off the field with three points. (Except against Lecce because that game was incredibly stupid.)
So maybe it will be more of the same when Juventus faces Milan on the eve of another international break. Or maybe Juve will be the latest team to extend Milan’s misfortunes and send them closer and closer to the relegation zone.
At the very least, we know that this will be the last Juve game for a couple of weeks — which, with the way things are going form-wise, might not be the worst thing in the world.
A brief recap of Sarri’s pre-match press conference:
- On the condition of Cristiano Ronaldo: “Let’s see what he can do. He feels a little pain in his knee, but it is nothing serious.”
- On the condition of Matthijs de Ligt: “He will try to train (Saturday) but we will see his reaction.”
- On Douglas Costa playing as a No. 10: “He wisely started to decentralise his position to find space. Thus, he was able to play the role of a playmaker well.”
- On where Adrian Rabiot might fit into Sarri’s plans in the future: “In the future, I see him more in front of the defence.” (Interesting since Rabiot is quite good as a No. 8.)
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
Almost a year to do the day, this happened ...
This was Gonzalo Higuain, wearing the No. 9 for Milan, getting sent off in a fit of absolute rage during his first game against Juventus since moving to the San Siro in the aftermath of Ronaldo arriving in Turin.
It was, clearly, the bad side of Higuain, a player who had himself quite the eventful 2018-19 season even though he wasn’t doing a whole lot of scoring goals with Milan and Chelsea. And it was because of those struggles a season that had sooooo many people thinking that Higuain’s days in bianconero were numbered once his loan spell in London — and Sarri’s time as Chelsea’s manager — came to an end.
Nearly a year after that, we’re seeing a much, much different kind of Higuain.
And in very good sense, too.
Higuain’s renaissance has been one of the most pleasantly surprising things to happen the first 2 1⁄2 months of the 2019-20 season. Once thought to be the “WTF?!” kind of starting lineup choice at the start of the season, Higuain has gone about his business about as well anybody could have hoped while becoming a player who has had a key role in some of Juventus’ biggest moments so far this season.
Now, the Higuain Revenge Tour gets ready to make its next stop.
Higuain is expected to start alongside Cristiano Ronaldo in Sarri’s 4-3-1-2, and after providing quite the pretty assist on Douglas Costa’s stunning game-winning goal midweek in the Champions League, I don’t think anybody is saying it isn’t deserved. (Whether Costa actually starts is not as much of a certainty as others, though.)
You probably didn’t expect to say that back in August.
But, as Juventus’ overall form continues to be a bit of a mystery, it’s pretty easy to say that Higuain is playing some of his best ball since his first go-around with the Italian champions.
And you can bet, like Sarri mentioned during his pre-match press conference, that playing against Milan, a club that pretty much gave up on him after four or five months, Higuain is going to have a little extra something to try and prove. Let’s just hope there are no red cards.
When: Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy
Official kickoff time: 8:45 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 7:45 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 2:45 p.m. Eastern Time; 11:45 a.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: RAI Italia America (United States); RAI Italia America, TLN (Canada); Premier Sports 1 (United Kingdom); Sky Sport Uno, Sky Supercalcio HD, Sky Calcio 1, 1Sky Sport Serie A, 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.