We saw Juventus’ immediate response to the thing they called a game last weekend in Rome. Now we get to see what kind of response the Italian champions have domestically knowing that the Scudetto race might as well become a three-team party.
Last Saturday’s trip to the Stadio Olimpico was, in a word, bad. And, after weeks of playing with dangerous fire, Juventus truly got burned by it thanks to Lazio’s red-hot form and rather dominant 3-1 win that prevented Maurizio Sarri’s squad from taking advantage of Inter’s draw with Roma 24 hours earlier.
Juve got back on the right track in Germany.
But now we get to see if that track extends all the way back to Northern Italy.
Juventus won’t have the “luxury” of knowing Inter’s result when they step onto the Allianz Stadium field to play Udinese on Sunday afternoon, the penultimate league fixture before the holiday break arrives. What Juve will have, however, is the chance to at least momentarily defunct the notion they almost always struggle the game after a Champions League fixture as well as put pressure on Inter once again with a win that would, at the very least, have the defending champions eight times over jump back into first place for a couple of hours.
At this point, with three games (two in Serie A and then the Supercoppa) left to go before the fellas have a couple weeks off, I think it’s safe to say we want to see more of what we saw against Bayer Leverkusen rather than the struggle of what has been pretty much the constant for the last 8 to 10 weeks. It has been a struggle more than it has been a work of art — and that’s probably putting it lightly at this point knowing what kind of form Maurizio Sarri’s squad has been in despite the fact they hadn’t lost until this past weekend.
Come Sunday, though, it’s pretty much the same kind of deal that it was two weeks ago against Sassuolo: Juventus has the opportunity to try and get right and maybe score a few goals while facing the kind of team that, in theory, Juve should easily beat.
Udinese is not the Udinese that we remember from previous years where they were the kind of pleasant surprise that was competing for a spot in Europe. This season, Udinese is sitting all of four points above the relegation zone and has scored a whopping 10 goals in its first 15 games of the 2019-20 season. They have all of two wins to their name since the start of October and have struggled to consistently pick up points all season long.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Kinda Sassuolo-ish, right?
This is the kind of game that Juventus has struggled to fully command through the first half of the current season. They might have more possession, more shots forced and lead in every other statistical category, but the end product is far from the dominating performance that you would expect one of the top clubs to have against a struggling side that hasn’t done much of anything right this season.
Maybe that trend will continue against Udinese.
Or, maybe, Juventus won’t do the post-Champions League game strugglefest that we’ve become so accustomed to over the past few years. That sure would be nice, wouldn’t it?
These players returned to training on Friday:
- Rodrigo Bentancur
- Douglas Costa
- Matthijs de Ligt (so apparently he was injured?)
These players who were injured are back in the matchday squad:
- Rodrigo Bentancur
- Aaron Ramsey
- Douglas Costa
These players are suspended for Udinese’s visit to Turin:
- Miralem Pjanic
- Juan Cuadrado
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
Because of injuries and suspensions, Juventus’ midfield is going to be as thin as its been all season this weekend. So, let’s go with one that is actually healthy. (No, no. Not the one that Mario Mandzukic is probably still wondering if he’s on vacation in Mallorca.)
Emre Can’s season has been filled with plenty of memorable moments. The problem is, not very many of them have actually come on the field, with his lack of playing time, Champions League squad list exclusion and subsequent numbers interviews about his situation at Juventus paving the way for an interesting last couple of months.
But this weekend is going to provide something that very few have through the first 3 1⁄2 months of the season to date — a chance ... a chance to play.
Even if Rodrigo Bentancur is good to go this weekend after returning to full training on Friday, that still leaves Maurizio Sarri with all of four healthy midfielders to choose from. And knowing that Miralem Pjanic is suspended this weekend, it’s a safe bet that Bentancur will be penciled in at the center of Sarri’s three-man midfield. That means, with Blaise Matuidi expected to take his usual spot after Adrien Rabiot provided his countryman with a rest midweek, there’s only one guy for one more starting spot.
Yep, you guessed it.
Can’s 55 or so minutes filling in for Bentancur last weekend against Lazio was an interesting ride that began quite eventfully. Maybe that’s something to do with the fact that he’s barely played any kind of consistent minutes and he was so amped up to get some run he just overplayed his hand. No matter what it was, though, if Can is going to be in the starting lineup against Udinese like many believe he will be, then the kind of showing we saw seven days earlier won’t exactly be the kind of thing that says “This guy right here needs to play more!”
And with his future anything but a certainty with the January transfer window just a couple of weeks away, playing well for a game or two might be a good thing no matter if he stays or is packing his bags and heading out of Turin city limits.
When: Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, 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: RAI Italia North America (United States); TLN, RAI Italia North America (Canada); Premier Sports 1 (United Kingdom); Sky Calcio 2 Sky Sport Serie A, Sky Supercalcio HD, NOW TV, (Italy)
Online/mobile: ESPN+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); Premium 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.