We’ve officially seen the September, October and now November international breaks come and go so far this season. Going into the first two, I think it’s safe to say that Juve’s overall style of play was starting to look good. However, coming out of the October international break, all of those warm and fuzzy feelings went up in smoke as fast as Maurizio Sarri can go through a pack of cigarettes in a day.
Juventus went into the November international break a team that looked like it was in dire need of some rest. Not that it was going to actually be possible seeing as so many of Juve’s regulars were going to head out on international duty and basically have the opposite of a couple much-needed weeks of rest (mentally and physically).
The early-season glimpses of Sarriball pretty much went by the wayside during Juventus’ seven-game stretch over the course of 22 days. It was a lot of football in a short amount of time, and the Italian champions looked every bit of the team that was simply trying to survive its run of games rather than coming anything close to blowing away its competition. The free-flowing football we got pieces and glimpses of was replaced by the grind-it-out kind of play we saw so many times when Max Allegri was screaming “DAI!!!” as many times as you have fingers and toes.
Now it’s all about what Juventus team comes out this latest international break.
Do we get the early-season edition that was impressing more often than frustrating us all?
Or, do we get the Juventus we saw in late-October and early-November, a team that was far from the entertaining product that was expected when Sarri was appointed manager?
As Juventus travels to Bergamo to face the always-exciting Atalanta and the new-look Gewiss Stadium, Sarri’s squad is about to be entering the early stages of another busy period of football with very little rest in between games. It’s not seven games in 22 days, but it’s close. Between this weekend’s trip to Bergamo and the start of the holiday break, Juventus will play eight games in three different competitions, capped by the Supercoppa in Saudi Arabia against Lazio on Dec. 22.
And, lest we forget, playing in Bergamo hasn’t exactly been something that’s anything close to an easy place to play. It’s been difficult at the stadium formerly known as the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia no matter if it’s in Serie A or the Coppa Italia — and we don’t need to look no further back than earlier in this calendar year for an example of just how bad things have gone against Atalanta lately.
Juventus will be plenty shorthanded Saturday afternoon, with plenty of big names either injured and left back in Turin or not expected to start.
However, that’s been the case for much of the pre-November international break stretch as well. That was a time when Juventus showed the signs of a club that was far from any kind of world beater. What the next post-international break string of games will bring is something that will set the tone for the second half of the season in more ways than one.
And, at least for the first step of that stretch, we’re about to find out.
- Blaise Matuidi’s broken rib is no longer broken and, as of Wednesday, he was training with the group once again.
- Miralem Pjanic picked up an injury during international duty with Bosnia, but has since recovered and is available for selection this weekend.
- Alex Sandro picked up an injury during international duty with Brazil and is not available for selection this weekend.
- Adrien Rabiot, who was not on international duty, picked up an injury during the international break and is not available for selection.
- Cristiano Ronaldo is healthy. Or maybe he isn’t. Or maybe he is since he has not been called up by Sarri for this weekend’s trip to Bergamo.
- Sarri indicated during his pre-match press conference on Friday that Juan Cuadrado, who signed a contract extension through 2022 earlier in the week, had the same kind of muscle injury as Rabiot. However, Cuadrado has been included in the traveling party to Bergamo, although most of the Italian press thinks that Danilo will start at right back.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
For the past week since I started the first draft of this match preview, this space was reserved for Ronaldo. But because he has not been called up by Sarri and is obviously being rested in hopes of being healthy enough for the Champions League midweek, I’ve had to change things up.
So, what do we do? We focus on another dude who has struggled over the last month or so.
Ah, yes. Back to the Bernardeschi talking point. Hello, friend. I’ve been waiting two weeks to talk to you again.
I feel like I can just copy and paste the same kind of thing that I wrote coming out of the last international break seeing as Bernardeschi was the focus of this here section in the first game back. And, a lot like that time around, Bernardeschi was coming off a very productive international break where he looked rather good with Italy as he played out wide rather than in the hole behind Juve’s strikers.
Funny how that works, isn’t it?
For all we know, Aaron Ramsey could be playing as the No. 10 on Saturday in Bergamo. And, honestly, that’s what should be happening more often than not as long as Ramsey is healthy based on the fact that he’s much more suited to the position rather than Bernardeschi, who has struggled mightily since becoming Sarri’s main choice to play as his trequartista. It’s not like Ramsey isn’t coming off a good international break, either, with his brace earlier in the week helping Wales secure its spot in Euro 2020. (So, yeah, he’s healthy again.)
But, as of this post being written, both Sky Italia and La Gazzetta dello Sport are saying that it’s Bernardeschi, not Ramsey, that will be playing behind Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala against Atalanta on Saturday afternoon.
At this point, I think it’s pretty easy to see that Bernardeschi is much more at ease playing out wide as a winger than being in the middle of everything as a No. 10.
The issue is, as the season has gone on, the 4-3-1-2 looks more and more like it will be Sarri’s choice more often than not, meaning it’s going to put Bernardeschi in an unnatural position if he continues to get regular playing time like he has been the past two months.
Logic tells you that Bernardeschi might feel more comfortable in that role as time goes on.
However, the eye test has told us that it just isn’t working for Fede when he plays in the hole, and that it’s not exactly getting much better over the last few weeks. (And that’s even before you consider that he’s been pretty good as a winger on the international level the past few international breaks.)
Maybe this weekend will be different. I hope it will because the last thing Juventus need right now is to continue to struggle up front where there is so much freakin’ talent even with Ronaldo staying back in Turin this weekend.
When: Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019
Where: Gewiss Stadium, Bergamo, 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: ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes (United States); TLN (Canada); Sky Sport Serie A, Sky Calcio 1, Sky Supercalcio HD (Italy)
Online/mobile: ESPN3, WatchESPN, ESPN Deportes+ (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.