We’ve reached the point in the early season where Juventus is in its first rut of the Maurizio Sarri era. It’s not a major one — or at least we hope it’s not. But if the last couple of weeks have shown us anything, it’s that the same team that was bossing Inter Milan at the San Siro in the Derby d’Italia before the international break isn’t the same team that we’ve seen as the final days of October arrives.
And it just so happens that the lasting memory we have from Juventus’ last-minute 2-1 win over Genoa midweek — well, besides those questionable jerseys — is just how poorly the team looked. As much as Sarri’s pre-match words about being better in front of goal made a whole lot of sense, there was no immediate fix. Juventus’ shot total again was well north or 20, but the goal total remained about as uninspiring as the end product on the field.
The hope is now that the first Derby della Mole is what snaps things back into shape.
Or, for at least a good portion of the match against Torino at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday night, there’s the hope that we see the kind of Juventus we saw during the Derby d’Italia rather than the Juventus we’ve seen the last couple weeks. You know, the kind of Juve that has struggled to beat mid- or lower-table clubs like Bologna, Lecce and Genoa the last two weeks.
As the season has gone on and the familiarity with Sarri’s complex system, the general thinking is that things only get better with time. You know, the whole with more familiarity comes more creativity and better results.
Juventus hasn’t looked great lately, and I don’t think you will find anybody who will be disagreeing with you at this point. Is it time to panic? No, probably not, despite what some folks might be telling you. (Caution: Those takes are, albeit predictable, rather spicy.) All of this has been highlighted by massive ineffectiveness in front of goal and the overall lack of that same kind of bite the team had entering the October international break when they were dismantling sides like Bayer Leverkusen and Inter Milan in the Derby d’Italia.
The hope is that another derby, this time a local one, is what kicks things back into gear again.
Of course, Torino are dealing with its own issues, There’s been rumblings of Walter Mazzarri’s status on the sidelines being anything but stable right now as Toro sit in 13th place and with just one win in the past six games. And that was before Torino got absolutely blasted by Lazio 4-0 midweek — which hasn’t helped much at all when it comes to a club’s early-season struggles.
As much as we might think Juve is underperforming right now, remember that Torino is a squad that was in a Europa League play-off tie just two months ago after a very good 2018-19 campaign.
Now, well, things are different.
You can go all cliché and say that you throw form out of the window when Juventus and Torino meet in the Derby della Mole. But it’s not like either team is playing all that well right now to begin with, so it’s not like they’re at opposite end of the spectrum. (Just opposite ends of the Serie A table, huh?!)
Either way, this is bound to be the game that both teams look at to try and get things going again. And, since we like the black and white side of Turin, let’s just hope that there’s some semblance of the Juventus we saw in early October now that we start the month of November.
Some notes from Sarri’s pre-match press conference on Friday:
- Sarri is “not sure” if Miralem Pjanic will be available to play against Torino, which obviously means this injury of his was a little more serious than the club initially let on.
- Sarri was encouraged by what he has seen from Aaron Ramsey in training this week, but he isn’t sure if the — and when — the Welshman will be ready to play a full 90-minute match.
- Sarri has been working with both Mattia De Sciglio and Danilo at the left back position in preparation for giving Alex Sandro a game off. (La Gazzetta dello Sport, as of the time of this being published, does not expect Sandro to be rested against Torino this weekend. Sky Sport Italia’s Gianluca Di Marzio, however, is tipping De Sciglio to get the start at left back.)
- With Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala on the field, Sarri said that the best formation is the 4-3-1-2 — a sign that he doesn’t wanted to push Juve’s No. 10 out wide in the same kind of way Max Allegri did last season just because he wanted to stick with the 4-3-3.
- Adrien Rabiot is suspended after being sent off against Genoa midweek.
- Via WhoScored: Juventus has won nine of its last 10 games against Torino away from home in all competitions.
- Both Ramsey and Douglas Costa may have made their respected returns from injury midweek against Genoa, but neither is expected to start on Saturday night.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
I could go with Matthijs de Ligt coming back into the starting lineup after a much-needed day of rest midweek. I could go with Rodrigo Bentancur (likely) filling in for Miralem Pjanic at the heart of Sarri’s three-man midfield for the second straight game.
But, when it comes to a city derby where the games have been pretty close virtually every time they take the field against one another, one mistake — be it good or bad — can decide it. So, we’re going to roll with the guy who likely be tasked with trying to shut Andrea Belotti down from the opening whistle onward ...
This season has been very good personally for Bonucci. He has taken over as club captain in Giorgio Chiellini’s absence and played some of his best football in the last couple of years. He has been consistently one of Juventus’ best players week-in and week-out, with the possibility of the game-changing mistake that haunted him so many times in his first season back in Turin seemingly being completely eliminated.
There’s been a couple of those moments, sure, but it’s not like we’re talking about Bad Bonucci every single week like we did a year ago.
I like Good Bonucci.
Good Bonucci can stay.
And Juventus will continue to need Good Bonucci to be ever-present if they want to remain atop the table and do some damage in the Champions League. (Remember, we’re still at least four months away from Chiellini coming back, and who knows what kind of shape he will be in when he does eventually come back.)
The thing with Juventus’ defense is that they’ve been extremely error prone this season. It’s not always de Ligt, but you can look at a look of the goals Juve has allowed through the first 2 1⁄2 months of the 2019-20 season and see that a lot of them have been self-inflicted wounds.
Bad clearances. Mistakes in the penalty area. Whatever it is, Juve’s defensive stability hasn’t been what it’s been in years past. (See the fact that they’re nearly allowing a goal a game in Serie A this season.)
I get that Torino are struggling and one of the main reasons why is that its offense has only generated three goals in the last five games, a stretch where a victory hasn’t been celebrated after the final whistle. But for all of those struggles, Belotti is still one of the top scorers in Serie A and always a threat to do some damage when given the chance.
If Bad Bonucci shows up, Belotti could make Juve pay.
If Good Bonucci shows up, then Juve are probably going to maintain their spot atop the Serie A table. (I’m a fan of this option.)
When: Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019
Where: Stadio Olimpico, Turin, Italy
Official kickoff time: 8:45 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 7:45 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 3:45 p.m. Eastern Time; 12:45 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.