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Manu’s Grab Bag: The New Big Three

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Juventus dominate Udinese in route to three key points in Serie A

Paulo Dybala of Juventus FC looks on during the Serie A... Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

Three goals in the first half!

That should be it. Honestly, the entire piece could be summed up by that sentence. That’s the main takeaway from Juventus’ comfortable 3-1 win over Udinese on Sunday, something we hadn’t really seen as of late. That being both an early offensive explosion and a comfortable win over a clearly inferior opponent in league play.

There’s a lot to discuss, so let’s get to it.

MVP: Cristiano Ronaldo

That’s five goals in four games for the Portuguese in one of his best displays in the last couple of months. Let’s not kid ourselves, he has looked pretty bad at times this season, but it was foolish to write him off just because of a rough spell of form.

Ronaldo looked like vintage Ronaldo at times and was clinical in his two scores to quickly put the game out of reach for the visitors. He paired well with the Argentinian tandem of Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain — more on them in a second — and is looking to hit his stride in the final few games of the first half of the season.

Runner Up: Paulo Dybala

Winner: The Ronaldo-Dybala-Higuain trident

I will freely admit to having problems naming the MVP and runner up this game because it could have easily been any combination of the three attacking players in Sunday’s win there really is no wrong answer here.

We saw a sneak peek of what this trio could do last week for an odd 20 minutes or so. Maurizio Sarri must have liked what he saw from them just as much as we did because for the first time this season this trio started a game and what a performance.

The link up was great all game, with great chemistry in the buildup and sharp passing it looked like these guys had had much more time playing together than they actually had. As a general rule of thumb, it is not a bad idea to play your most in-form attackers all together with Federico Bernardeschi — a man both out of position and form — and with Douglas Costa and Aaron Ramsey being the living breathing proof of the best ability is availability rule, it was a matter of time before we saw this lineup and it delivered.

Don’t look now, but Juventus might have the best offensive trident in the sport.

Away Team Fun Fact

The relegation battlers, Udinese, did not manage a massive upset. However that doesn’t mean they are not a relatively historic club, if not for accomplishments at the very least by time. The club was founded in 1896! That’s 123 years for those of you who are not mathematically inclined. Which is quite an accomplishment in and of itself considering the fact that they play in the city of Udine. How big is Udine you ask? That’s 99,341 inhabitants as of last census information in 2017. That’s less than 100,000 people; there are stadiums big enough to host the entire population of Udine.

Also, did you know that Udinese played Champions League football? It’s true! They played in the 2005-06 Champions League, getting drawn into a group with Barcelona, Werder Bremen and Panathinaikos. Which, yikes, tough break there 13 years ago, Udinese.

They did reasonably well, getting 7 points and barely missing qualification due to goal differential against Werder Bremen. Good on you, Udinese from 13 years ago, I’m retroactively proud of your performance.

Trending Up: Rodrigo Bentancur

In the year-end recaps the BWRAO team does targeting position groups, yours truly was in charge of the midfield and here is what I had to say at the time about Bentancur coming into this season:

“With a new coaching staff in tow and what should be a revamped a midfield next season, the future of Bentancur is very much in the air. It could be a make it or break it kind of season for the youngster, let’s hope he puts it all together.”

Well, count me in as someone in the “he is putting it all together” column, because we saw yet another solid display by the Uruguayan who has fully-seized his chance at starter minutes with the injury to Sami Khedira and Emre Can’s general situation. He was all over the field and completed his passes at a 93.3% rate, which is just a silly stat.

He did play a part in Udinese’s lone goal of the day and got carded for his trouble, which less than ideal, but the good outweighs the bad, in my opinion. With a suspension looming midweek I expect to see Bentancur lining up as a starter for the Super Cup against Lazio and, hopefully, performing as well as he has been.

Trending Up: Merih Demiral

Another youngster who is seizing the chances he has been given. Demiral had seven clearances, and he again made a really good case for more playing time. He is still a rough player, a lot of the times having mistakes in positioning that leave holes open for the offense, but he has been there to block those chances more often than not.

With his play, he has solidified himself as the clear-cut third option in the pecking order and he should be in line to see more of the field. As a treat we got to see him play a few minutes alongside Mathijs de Ligt, and you will have to excuse me but it was hard not to have visions of those two guys being the lynchpins of the Juventus defense for many, many years to come.

Parting Shot of the Week

After Fiorentina managed a last-minute draw against Inter Milan later in the day Sunday, Juve’s now tied for the league lead in points, only falling to second place on goal difference. Considering the ungodly amount of injuries and the predicted struggle under a new manager, this is a pretty damn good scenario for the Bianconeri to find themselves in with a couple of games left in the first half of the season.

Inter is scheduled to play Genoa this coming weekend, so it’s unlikely that they drop points, However, Juventus have a chance to finish with at least a share of first place and everything to play for, so this is going to be fun, you guys.

See you Wednesday.