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Manu’s Grab Bag: Back with a vengeance

Juventus turn the result around in 20 minutes as goals by Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala come back from the International Break in style.

Paulo Dybala of Juventus FC with his teammates Gonzalo... Photo by Marco Canoniero/LightRocket via Getty Images

Coming off out of an international break is always such a coin toss. Sometimes players come back in great form and pick up right where they left off. Other times, they come back tired and spent and put forth sluggish performances.

Saturday’s thrilling 3-1 come-from-behind win for Juventus had a little bit of both, as the Bianconeri were straight up terrible for the vast majority of the game, only to turn it around for the last 20 minutes and get a resounding victory at Atalanta. It would have been better for my overall mood if they could jump straight into the whole “play really good football” quicker than they usually do, but I’ll take the three points any day of the week.

Let’s get right to it.

MVP: Gonzalo Higuain

With the Cristiano Ronaldo “will he, won’t he play” injury drama sidelining the Portuguese, it was up to Higuain to lead the front line alongside Paulo Dybala. And the former No. 9, current No. 21, delivered the goods.

With two goals to his count as well as a full-on grinder of a performance, Higuain was everywhere for Juventus in the second half. This is a fact now: Juventus play better when Higuain is starting. I don’t know what to make of this unforeseen development, but it’s just a fact at this point. It was just a big game from Pipita — and just when Juve needed it most.

Runner Up: Mathijs de Ligt (MY SON!)

Trending Down: Federico Bernardeschi and Sami Khedira

It is just so sad to see how Berna’s season is going. He’s being played out of position more often than not and struggling a large portion of the time than not as well. If only to add to his season to forget, Bernardeschi was subbed out early after an injury that had him in a fair amount of pain.

Bernardeschi keeps getting chances and keeps being deployed as the nominal trequartista, but I don’t really know what Maurizio Sarri is seeing in him in that role and whether or not he will continue to get chances. The situation only gets more noticeable seeing him play for the national team and thrive in a wide role much more suited to his actual skill set.

Bernardeschi is in a very similar position than Dybala was last season — played out of position and struggling to perform. It will be interesting to see if, much like La Joya did this season, he can pull himself out of this funk and perform to the level we know he can perform.

The less said about Sami Khedira the better since this was another less than zero performance from the German. I cannot emphasize enough how slow he looked throughout the entire game, even his usual steady positioning was off as he was one of the culprits of leaving Roben Gosen wide open for Atalanta’s goal.

The minute he was subbed off, Juventus looked better — which is a continuing trend this season. Emre Can is not an elite, otherworldly player, but he looked better than Khedira by leaps and bounds. It’s really, really hard to keep looking for reasons Khedira he is still starting at this club on a regular basis.

Trending Up: Juventus at the Atleti Azzurri D’ Italia

Atalanta’s home stadium had been something of a house of horrors for Juventus as of late, as they had been trounced 3-0 in their last visit during last year’s Coppa Italia elimination. Atalanta, in general, has proven to be a tough opponent for Juventus as their face to face record was less than great with a win apiece and two ties in the last four matchups against them.

Despite it looking like more of the same early on, Juve managed to pick up the much-needed win in a spot where they hadn’t looked as great before. Credit must be given to Atalanta as well though, they are a Champions League side after all, and much respect has to be given to them for being a though out day in and day out.

Update from Mario Lemina Island

I told, y’all, I wasn’t crazy! Look at that goal!

Juventus’ Instagram accounts have been doing this thing where they post highlights from previous matchups against whoever Juve is facing next, and this one was a fun reminder of the potential once shown by the Gabonese midfielder. Potential that brought him to Juventus in an effort to solidify the midfield. Spoiler alert, he didn’t.

Still, some of us really believed he could develop into an upper-tier guy and flashes like that one gave us all Lemina stans hope. If you want an update on what Lemina has been doing, he was transferred to Southampton in 2017 where he played for two years and he is currently on loan with Turkish giants Galatasaray, where has played sparingly and will return to Southampton by early January.

So, yeah, jot this one for me in the L column, please and thank you. We will always have that goal though, Mario.

Manu’s Gambling Corner

The International break picks — Italy and Sweden as straight up winners — came through. Putting the official two first picks of the gambling corner as wins. I’M A GENIUS, NEVER IN DOUBT, IT’S FREE MONEY Y’ALL.

Anywho, Juventus was a favorite over Atalanta, but not by much to be honest, only a +140 as an outright winner, with the draw paying out to +250. I bet 100 to win 240 as a straight up Juventus win and hedged a 50 bet on the tie. Obviously, the tie thankfully lost, and we walked away with a tidy 3-1 record after two weeks of gambling corner existence.

Next Juve matchup is against Atletico Madrid in where Juve is favorite but, much like against Atalanta, not by much at only +110 with the tie being valued at +220 and an outright Atletico Madrid win +270.

I don’t know much, but if you can grab positive odds for a Juve win at home you gotta do it, you just have to. The pick here is to put 100 on Juventus to win outright and finish first in the group.

Gambling Corner record: 3-1

Parting Shot of the Week

After the international break drama and Juventus’ iffy play leading up to said break, it’s an honest to goodness heist that we managed to walk out of Atalanta with three points.

The final score line might be a tad deceiving, but make no mistake, Juventus did play good football for the last 30 minutes of the game or so and that is good news considering what he had been seeing from the Bianconeri as of late. With Inter’s win over Torino the lead atop of the table continues to be slim and Juve will have to keep winning in order to stave off the Antonio Conte-led team.

Up next we have Champions League midweek action as Atletico Madrid visits Juventus Stadium with the top spot on the group on the line.

See you next Tuesday.